Council Connection—November 18, 2020 AUSU Council Meeting

Council Connection—November 18, 2020 AUSU Council Meeting

The November 18, 2020 council meeting was called to order at 6:32 MDT.

Councillor Katheryn Hadden sent her regrets, and notably absent was former President Natasha Donahue.  Vice President External and Student Affairs (now Interim-President), Stacey Hutchings, chaired the meeting in her absence.

Land acknowledgements were read by VPEX Stacey Hutchings which Councillor Karen Fletcher further elaborated on, speaking about the treaty agreements of what is now called Ottawa (it used to be the nation of Anishinaabe).

The agenda included the addition of the ratification of a vote held by email between the council meetings.  The previous minutes of council’s meeting on October 21st were then approved.

The Election Conduct Policy was amended and brought to council for approval.  There were a few items being revised.  For example, the word “day” in the policy meant any calendar day (as opposed to week-day) but not if that day was a statutory holiday.  There was also a change to the timeline of when the Chief Returning Officer should be hired, with it being noted that a full seven days before the start of the nomination period probably was not necessary.  An amendment was also made that the call for nominations be fourteen days long, instead of an arbitrary period between seven and fourteen days.

Councillor Darcie Fleming was concerned that there may be visiting students, only taking one or two courses at a time, who will run for student council, and wondered if this policy could adjust this or if such a change would need to be done in bylaws.  Councillor Amber McDuffe countered that that change might be a discriminatory concern, noting that people who are studying more than one course may absolutely be committed to working on Council.  It was also pointed out by the Governance Advisor that preventing certain classes of students from running might be seen as a violation of the Post-Secondary Learning Act.

There was some discussion about how to break a tie if two or more people have the same number of votes for the last available seat on Council.  The policy changes put forward removed the secondary vote to replace it with the CRO choosing the last seat by some random means.  .

Further into the report, AUSU Council affirmed that Voice Magazine must be unbiased and not promote one candidate over another in an upcoming election.

Overall, the updated policy 3.01 was approved with these amendments to the student election bylaws.

Vice-President Finance & Administration, Monique Durette brought forth policy 3.03 which examined changing the By-Election policy to allow councillors to be appointed by sitting council members.  Some councillors evidenced some concern at this notion and it was noted that, prior to the by-election, AUSU Council had been polled as to whether it was felt appropriate that council, as students themselves, be able to elect new councillors without going to the larger AUSU membership.  At the time, the overall feeling was that this would be acceptable.  However, the concerns being noted now mean that the poll, taken before the by-election, might no longer be representative of council’s opinion.  VPEX Hutchings said she would like to follow the lead of other student unions to decide how to efficiently fill empty seats, as it was noted that during the last AUSU Council election, several councillors resigned shortly after being elected, but before being sworn in, leaving empty seats even though there were still interested students who had just narrowly missed being elected.

It was explained that the methods differ at other student unions.  Some, like the Students’ Union of the University of Calgary, have a defined by-election period, during which any empty seats are filled part way through the term..  Other student unions simply have the council appoint new members, while others hold full by-elections when needed.

With no real consensus, VPEX Hutchings stated that she would like to table this policy and it’s amendments so that they can get more information and have a fuller discussion with Council as a whole.  Next meeting in December, this will be discussed again by student council.  The motion to table this discussion was approved.

In the reports section, VPEX Hutchings introduced a position policy promoting co-curricular activities records to be implemented by AU.  These records serve as an official way for the extra activities you might do for the university community or perhaps even the community at large to be officially recorded and made part of your student records for transfers or submissions to graduate studies.  As some other schools are already doing this, this would give AU students an equal opportunity compared to students of those schools.  It will also help students stand out on their resumés and graduate school applications.  The motion was enthusiastically and unanimously approved.  This is a fantastic opportunity for AU students! Kudos to VPEX Hutchings!  I don’t know about you, Voice readers, but I look forward to taking advantage of this opportunity.

There was a motion for AUSU to become a full member of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS).  This will require an unbudgeted expense of $8000, but council was assured that this would not be a problem as the budget was initially written assuming many of the normal advocacy activities would take place, something that COVID-19 has prevented.  It was approved unanimously.

AUSU also approved updated Investment Policy guidelines which aims toward making sure that AUSU maintains a portfolio balanced between equities and fixed income investments.  This motion was passed unanimously by Council.

Finally, was the added motion to ratify a motion passed through email.  That motion was to approve an $10,000 unbudgeted expense to go to human resources support and services from MB Workplace Law.   Councillors ratified that this had happened unanimously.

Then came time for the reports, beginning with the President’s report.  This was where we found out why Natasha Donahue was not present, as she resigned from the executive team and so was not present at the meeting, and hence VPEX Hutchings had to act as the chair.  Natasha had indicated that she received an opportunity to work in her field of study, instead, but Council noted that she will be missed.

VPEX Hutchings reported that membership of the Council of Alberta Students and the Co-Curriculars were her top achievements for this month.  It was a good month for her, in my opinion.

The awards and bursaries were discussed.  It was noted and applauded that the food assistance program distributions would be based on monthly income, rather than annual income.  There was the suggestion that awards and bursaries might base their decisions on monthly income as well.  Councillor Katy Lowe assured Council that if a student’s situation has changed between their last recorded annual income and the current situation, the Awards Committee absolutely take that into account when deciding who receives and award or bursary.

In VPFA Durette’s report, she discussed strengthening Athabasca’s relationship with Open University in the UK.  AUSU is excited to build relationships with other universities that are doing the same thing as AU is.  In her finance report, she noted that there is a surplus of $230,000 including $104,000 in enrollment spikes.

Councillor Lowe reported that the Awards Committee was busier in October than it had been in previous months, part of the reason being that  the AUSU cyclical awards season was launched on October 1st.  The awards committee is also considering changes to the award credit requirements and the impacts on students if it was lowered from 12 credits to 6 credits to access awards.  This will make awards more accessible to students.  I think this was a great decision for students who are struggling to pay for their education.

VPEX Hutchings’ report on the Membership Engagement & Communications Committee also spoke about the food assistance program for students and an LGBTQ2S+ discord chat group.  She also reported on how the Indigenous Student Representative Committee met to discuss what indigenous representation could look like at AUSU.  Councillor Fleming suggested that Council reach out to the Elder in Residence at AU.  It was noted that she is often busy, but VPEX Hutchings will attempt to reach out regardless.  Councillor McDuffe indicated that she is committed to learning as much about cultural awareness as possible, so welcomes any opportunity.

The Executive Director Jodi Campbell’s report on the Student Advisory Committee stated that Natasha Donahue really set the tone for the Student Advisory Committee.  When there is a new student president, Council hopes that they continue her great work.  He also noted in his report that there is research being conducted related to a student paid health and dental plan for AU students.  This project is in the initial stages and there is much to be decided about the program yet, even things such as which students might be eligible for it, whether it’s opt-in or opt-out, and a number of other concerns.

Councillor Fleming asked if they can move the Trivia Nights, now known as “AUSU Nights” earlier in the month so that it does not interfere with anyone’s studies and particularly with exams.  Councillor Fletcher requested that the December student social not be Christmas-themed, so as to be more inclusive to those celebrating during the holidays.

Donette Kingyens reported on Communications and Member Services.  The website had a lot of traffic this month.  There are more peer course reviews than ever, and the social media accounts had a lot of traffic, as well.

As always, you are invited to contact the AUSU office with any questions that arise from the meeting at ausu@ausu.org , 780-497-7000, or toll-free at 1-855-497-7003.

The motion to adjourn at 8:23pm Mountain Time was approved.

This has been your student council coverage by Emily Viggiani.  The next council meeting is tentatively scheduled on December 16, 2020 at 6:30pm (MDT).

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