Council Connection—March 17, 2021 Meeting

At 6:30 pm, AUSU Council gathered with its new executive having just been elected.  The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes.  In this case, all three executives from last month were re-elected into the same positions, but an extra executive position had been created and a councillor elected.  Although the person who won the position was not disclosed during this meeting, I’ve found out since that Councillor Karen Fletcher has been elected to the new Executive position of Vice President of Community and Wellness (VPCW), so congratulations go to her.

The meeting started with all current councillors present except for Devon Romanick, who, as it turned out, had recently resigned from Council, with it being noted during the President’s report that Devon had been juggling a lot of things and had decided that stepping down from AUSU Council was necessary.  This means that AUSU Council is now down to ten people out of the initial 13 that were brought to AUSU through the 2020 election and 2020 by-election.

In total, AUSU has lost seven of the thirteen councillors that students initially elected. This is a concerning amount of turnover in the organization, as it surely means that significant effort has been going in to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks as various councillors leave, plus the additional training and familiarization required when a councillor moves to take over a portfolio left behind.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure what can be done about this, but it does seem to indicate that the move to the larger thirteen seat council over the previous nine seat council was probably a very good move.  Hopefully the same will be said about the additional executive position.

Getting back to the meeting itself, also present was student Jo-Mary Crowchild, the representative of AUSU’s indigenous Student Representation Committee to Council to present that committee’s report.

Agenda, Minutes, and Policies

The agenda and minutes and review of previous action items were quickly handled with little comment, as were the first two polices on the agenda: The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) policy, and the Executive Committee Terms of Reference policy—the changes to which added the fourth executive.

Also brought forward was the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Position Policy (not to be confused with the previously mentioned EDI policy.  The Position Policy defines AUSU’s position on these matters to the outside world, the EDI policy defines how it handles those matters within its own activities.  It was noted that the position policy is till evolving, with the third part coming sometime this year along with proposed changes to the council governance and terms of reference.  The third part will consist of the research that has been done, and it was noted by Vice President External and Student Affairs Natalia Iwanek that she feels this position policy will be a live document, that is, something changed quite regularly, because the issue space is something that is continually evolving.

The next point was the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Position Policy.  VPEX Iwanek pointed out that AUSU had not had anything like this in the past, perhaps because the lack of campus meant it wasn’t seen as something as important to AU and AUSU as it might be for physical universities.  However, because AU does have various opportunities for students to meet in person, including co-op opportunities, labs, and certain town-halls or other gatherings, that AUSU should have something on record.

All the policy additions and changes brought forward were approved uananimously by council.

Indigenous Student Representation Committee

The last section before report presentation was the presentation of the Indigenous Student Representation Committee’s report, with the resolution that AUSU council adopts the recommendations from the report and approves the creations of an appointed AUSU Indigenous Student Circle in 2021.

Jo-Mary Crowchild spoke to this report, and noted how the committee first talked about identifying indigenization at AUSU, with her saying that she’s “only been a part of the AU community since last April, so I’m still learning what’s going on, but recently you guys have added land acknowledgements, which are super important” and also noted how there was a focus about access to education for indigenous learning, including seeking more funding on multiple levels of the university to include indigenous voices.  She was also hopeful that the committee would be able to create a position to offer an indigenous voice on how we can do better as AU for the students, and noted “It’s good to see this council advocating for that.”

President Stacy Hutchings pointed out that she wanted to make sure AUSU gets indigenous communications in their executive workplans, and when it comes to reconciliation, to understand that our typical processes are very colonial, “so understanding that and being able to create other ways of being and knowing within our space and elevate the voice of all” is very important.

Executive Director Jodi Campbell added that this was “A unique project we should be proud of. Thank you to everyone in the ad hoc committee,” and noted that “people were really getting involved, collaborating and brainstorming,” and it was great to see.

One of the recommendations of the report was that an indigenous students’ circle be appointed from the indigenous students of AU, and that future councils would have one seat filled by the circle’s representative to AUSU, with the other twelve being decided by student election.  Governance Advisor Duncan Wojtaszek noted that this would likely be permissible under the post-secondary learning act, as it was still a student of AU, being chosen by other students of AU.  Personally, I liken it to other universities where students of certain faculties elect a representative for their particular faculty for the student association.

The motion passed unanimously.

Executive & Committee Reports

This brought us to the executive and committee reports section, and as has quickly become tradition, these past mostly without addition or comment from the executive, other than the aforementioned resignation of Devon Romanick.

Executive Director Jodi Campbell did note during his report the resignation of AUSU’s communications co-ordinator, Donette Kingyens who has moved on to AUSU for a position in their Prior Learning Assessment and Review department.  He also noted that, as of March 25th, AUSU would become a wholly virtual organization, as they are giving up their office space.

Coronavirus forced AUSU to go back to people working primarily from home (something it last did almost a decade ago now) and it was noted that AUSU’s systems allowed that to happen with very few disruptions in the normal workflow.  They’ve decided that they may as well keep that momentum going, and so will now be a fully virtual organization.

Recognition and Acknowledgements

Finally, the recognition and acknowledgements section contained an interesting story from Councillor Katy Lowe, who was thanking AU and the AU community for being what they are.  You may have seen the images on her Facebook page of Katy graduating at home, but there’s a reason why AU went to the effort.

Katy, who’s graduating this year, would not be able to attend convocation with her mother, who has stage four cancer.  Councillor Regan Johnson, on hearing of this, told President Hutchings, who talked to AU, and the communications team of AU put together “a little convocation ceremony” for her so her mom could see it.

“It was so amazing on every level”, she said, and she’s “touched by the generosity and so proud to be a part of the AU community, because this was something that meant a lot to me and my family, especially for mom, and was the best day she could have had before she went into treatment the very next day.”

She continued, “I will always be the most proud alumnus of this university and this community.  I am so proud to be a part of it.”

Ever wonder why you’re at AU?  Now you’ve got another reason.

Next Meeting

April 21, 2021 will be the next meeting of AUSU Council.  If you’re interested in seeing what AUSU is doing for you, contact and ask to come to the next meeting, you’ll get a package giving you the details of the meeting, including when and how to get in.