The approval of the November 21, 2019 meeting agenda was unanimous, with the proposition to discuss item nine on student aid position policy. All were in favor to move for the approval of the October meeting minutes, and there were no action items to be discussed.
From this point, the council moved quickly into the In-Camera discussion, which began at 6:43 PM, and ended at 7:00 PM. The motion discussed In-Camera was defeated by a vote of 1/10.
After concluding this discussion, council moved on to discuss the policy revisions which had been tabled from the October 2019 council meeting. First came the approval of Policy 2.14, Council Responsibilities and Honoraria edits. This policy discusses what is the responsibility of the councillors, and what needs to be upheld to continue as a member of council. The original wording required council members must be AUSU members for two thirds of a term, but council posed the question if this was an accurate reflection of what being an AU Student is, as students complete courses at different rates, some quite quickly, some much more slowly. Since you’re only an AUSU member while actively in a course should AUSU penalize you if you do courses quickly with a significant break in between them?
It was concluded that the policy would need to have changes made to it that state that one course must be completed in a year to continue with council membership. But it was noted that for this policy change to be effective, the AUSU bylaws must also be adjusted, as they would override the changes in policy. To change the bylaws requires specific processes and timelines, including notices to the members and a minimum time period for members to understand and opportunities to comment on the proposed changes.
The council also made note that they did not want to restrict council members to having a GPA of 2.0, as some of those who have expressed interest in joining council are early in their academic career, and one bad grade can affect their GPA. The council expressed their concern that this might deter people from joining. Council voted to accept the changes and would enter into a discussion after the meeting as to whether they would be able to provide appropriate notice to change the bylaws before the next election. At the writing of this report, it appears they decided it’s possible, and the first reading of the Bylaw changes was held on December 16th, with the second reading and opportunity for student comment will be held on January 16th.
After concluding the discussion on this policy, the council moved to discuss the president’s report. President Brandon went on to elaborate on the success of the new virtual co-op program with the faculty of business and filled council in on how well it has been going. So far, he notes, it has been an interesting opportunity, although there are a few minor glitches. The new co-op program (as in computer program) creates situations and generates conversations that the student will have to respond to accordingly, and they will be rated on how well they respond. The program will continue to be worked on and improved, and hopefully will be available for students to use in January.
Also discussed in the president’s report was the topic of provincial budgets. He noted that it was being worked on with AU what the budget will be, as they were, at the recent consultation with the student union, unable to provide what the proposals would be for tuition. The government is pushing institutions to raise their tuitions by 7 percent, and this has created several concerns and will be discussed with administration. (This has since been confirmed, and tuitions will be increasing by 7%, along with various other fees that are tied to tuition, such as the Learning Resources Fee.)
The council then moved on to discuss the success of the pledges from across the country for the Get out to Vote campaign. Every single province and territory had at least one pledge, which is a positive outcome and what was strived for. There were approximately 1500 pledges made, and that was about 300 more than what was expected. Vice-President External and Student Affairs, Natasha Donahue, went on to elaborate that at the CASA conference it was discussed that there should be the creation of an indigenous advisory group.
At the conclusion of the November meeting, it was not known if there was to be December meeting, but after the meeting AUSU council was able to schedule a meeting for December 16th, ensuring that they had enough time to meet the requirements for notice for the above mentioned change to the bylaws.
The December 16th meeting, however, was extremely short, and due to technical difficulties neither myself or Voice Editor Karl Low was able to attend, as a password had been somehow set on the meeting room, and, once provided with it mid-way through the meeting, that password did not work. AUSU staff has indicated that even councillors were having difficulties getting in, and they were not sure how the password was set, or why it did not work for Karl. As it was, the meeting ran for barely a half hour, from 5:30pm to 6:00pm. We spoke to a councillor after the meeting and learned that all Councillors did manage to get to the meeting, the first reading of the bylaws was made and approved, and there was some short discussion about the 7% tuition increase and how disappointed AUSU was with it and the effects it will have on students, especially those from out of province and internationally. However, it apparently was noted that AU has indicated that they may seek to avoid the same increase in the next two years, as the government is suggesting, due to the facts presented to them by AUSU. Whether this will bear any fruit remains to be seen.
The next meeting and final reading of the bylaw changes will be held on January 16th. Merry Christmas!