All Councillors were in attendance, with the exception of Councillor Katherine Hadden. Also in attendance was The Voice’s Council Meeting Reporter Natalia Iwanek.
Key items included Policy Revisions, Council Reports, and the Indigenous Student Representation Committee.
Agenda, Minutes, and Action Items
President Natasha Donahue called the meeting to order at 6:32 pm MT with AU’s land acknowledgement, as well as a reflection on the meaning on this acknowledgement. The agenda and all minutes were accepted without issue. No action items were outstanding for this meeting.
VPFA Monique Durette spoke briefly about the Informal Review of Policies 8.01, 8.02, 8.04, and 8.08, the terms of references for various AUSU committees, which are revised every two years. She outlined minor changes to the Finance Committee Terms of Reference, stating most changes ensured consistency in wording with other committee documents. Changes to the Awards Committee Terms of Reference were mainly grammatical, while the Member Engagement and Communications Committee Terms of Reference was copy edited and checked for consistency with other committees. The fewest changes were made to the Executive Compensation Review Committee’s Terms of Reference.
Next, Natasha continued with the creation of the Indigenous Student Representation Committee, with a move from Monique and a second by Councillor Reagan Johnson. The motion for the “framework for Indigenous student representation at AU” passed unanimously.
Policy 8.11 Indigenous Student Representation Committee Terms of Reference passed unanimously as well, with a move by Councillors Josh Ryan and Darcie Fleming. Natasha stated that the policy was developed as a collaborative effort over four to five months and will set an example for student unions across the country. Featuring Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, the Committee will be active from July 2020 to February 2021, at which time Council can extend its duration.
The Indigenous Student Representation Committee will be made up of three to five AUSU Councillors and up to one general AUSU member, and will be tasked with researching and developing proposals that consider the feasibility of ensuring there is Indigenous student representation at AUSU and an Indigenous students’ circle.
Executive Director Jodi Campbell stated that this Committee received budget allocation from funds available for ad hoc research and it will overlap with the new fiscal year.
Committee members include Monique Durette, Stacey Hutchings, Darcie Fleming, Reagan Johnson, and Devon Romanick. Josh Ryan inquired about the possibility of sitting in and making the dates and times known, to which Governance and Advocacy Coordinator Duncan Wojtaszek replied that he would send information. Jodi mentioned that the chair will be selected at the first meeting, to which Natasha added that this will be by consensus.
Next, Council unanimously passed the ratification of an e-mail vote, which had donated $15,000 from the AUSU operational reserves to the Athabasca University Emergency Relief Fund, which goes to students in need because of COVID-19 in the form of $1000 bursaries, with a move by Regan and a second by Josh.
Natasha continued with the President Report, mentioning that May was a busy month for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), as well as speaking briefly on the May 20, 2020 General Faculties Council meeting. Natasha discussed the meeting with Priscilla Campeau, Chair of Nukskahtowin, about AU’s Nukskahtowin plan, described as “beautiful plan which was developed with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous voices that sets out the process for institutional Indigenization.” Natasha continued with a mention of the Digital Security Plan, saying that it has been applied from the private sector, as a response to “bad actors” and security breaches during COVID-19. She also mentioned the CASA Virtual Foundations Conference at the end of May.
As a result of the pandemic, interaction with other student unions had been impossible, however, Natasha and Stacey met with delegates before the meetings, generating many ideas, in particular student engagement.
Stacey Hutchings’ VPEX Report noted the new 2% fee that will be invoiced to students if they use credit cards to pay for their courses. This essentially increases the entire fee for attending AU, including extra costs such as AUSU dues, by 2% According to the report, these fees are to Moneris, not AU. In addition, American Express will no longer be accepted, and because these fees are not given to AU, they will not be refunded if a student withdraws from a course.
She also met twice with Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education where she was able to bring questions with an AU focus.
Darcie inquired if all universities are going to have the same program in regards to Stacey’s Report’s about digital infrastructure, in which the Minister “pointed out that if they had a centralized system, then the government could do more to help.” Stacey answered that she is not sure as there was no follow up, but will ask for more clarification.
The VPEX Report also detailed the Dean’s Report on COVID-19, which “shared that the faculty had issued 10,000 course extensions and 220 alternative assessments to students. Due to supply issues, textbooks were moving to a digital form.” Many students, including those in the MBA program, have not been pleased with this decision, “however, faculty will continue to address individual students concerns.” In addition, “if a student needed a hard copy of a textbook due to accessibility issues, they … [may] make a request through ASD.”
Monique’s VPFA Report was next, and she noted there had been a great deal of policy work and changes, mentioned at the beginning of the meeting, in addition to meetings already covered by both Natasha and Stacey.
Monique continued with the Finance Committee Report, stating that they met in May for the first time as a new committee and welcomed new member-at-large, Mark Toews.
During the Awards Committee Report, Councillor Katy Lowe stated that over 200 applications were received for each category, and that she wished that more awards were available. Jodi interjected that there were a total of 244 applications. Ten students had applied for the ten New Student Awards, with eight awarded and two left unclaimed. The two remaining applicants had also applied for the higher valued #Igo2AU award and had been awarded those instead. The leftover awards will roll on to next year. In addition, AUSU has voted and passed a motion for an additional #Igo2AU award.
Stacey continued with the Member Engagement and Communications Committee Report, stating that while the Committee did not meet, two YouTube videos, including “Academic Integrity for Athabasca University Students” and “COVID-19 Supports for Students May 11 – Update,” as well as two Podcasts, were put up. Podcasts included “Episode 27: Meet Fellow AU Students – Natasha, Stacey and Monique” and “Episode 28: The Voice Magazine – Telling AU Stories since 1998!”.
Jodi presented the Executive Director Report, briefly mentioning the continuation of working from home, with the possibility of reassessing in July about when a safe return to the office can take place. Jodi spoke of how proud he was of everyone handing working from home and commended the group for their Virtual Council Retreat last week. Over 16,000 COVID-19 surveys were completed, with 100 ProctorU codes that will be awarded. He also commended AUSU Administrative Assistant Jamie Mulder on her compilation work on the awards. In addition, specifically to The Voice, his Report mentioned that that Chef Corey’s recipes have been getting increased views.
Finally, Communications and Member Services Coordinator Donette Kingyens briefly presented her Report, in which she thanked Duncan for putting together the survey. Surveys had been received from all provinces and worldwide, including Hong Kong, Germany, and the United States. The Voice is also obtaining hits from Google searches, as well as increased subscribers to LinkedIn Learning.
Question and Answer Period
Just before the question and answer period ended, I inquired about the recent resignation letters of Councillors Ian Stewart and Kathryn Hadden that were included in the meeting package. Natasha replied that Kathryn had decided to remain on Council, but the four vacant seats means that AUSU will be moving to a by-election. Duncan added that a call will be issued at the end of June, with nominations in mid-July, and the election taking place in mid-August.
Next Meeting and Adjournment
The meeting was officially adjourned at 7:22 pm MT. The next meeting will take place on July 15, 2020 at 6:30 pm MT. As AUSU members, AU students are encouraged to attend council meetings via teleconference. Details can be found on the AUSU website.