Council Connection—June 17, 2021 Meeting

The meeting was called to order at 6:35 pm with the announcement of Executive Director Jodi Campbell taking on the role of accessibility officer.  This change in the usual proceedings was implemented to allow anyone in need of accommodations to request them discreetly at the beginning of the meeting.

The council members then acknowledged their presence on traditional lands of Indigenous Peoples.  VP of Community and Wellness Natalia Iwanek took time to reflect on the difficult month for the Indigenous and Muslim communities, referring to the discovery of the remains of 215 children near the Kamloops Indian Residential School, and the killing of four Muslims in London, Ontario.  She wished for everyone present to take some time to reflect on the byproducts of colonialism still existent and to reaffirm the AUSU’s commitment to support affected members of these communities and advocate for them in the post-secondary system.

Councillor Iwanek added that, with June being Pride Month, AUSU is continuing to work toward advocacy initiatives, scholarships, bursaries, and safe spaces.  Some of the major projects included under this umbrella are the formation of the Indigenous Circle; the newly formed Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee; the establishment of a Discord server focused on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues; and a food assistance program.  For the uninitiated, Discord is a free voice over internet protocol software for voice, text, and video chat, as well as file sharing and distribution.  She concluded with the remark that AUSU is constantly striving to improve and input is welcomed from council members and members-at-large alike.

All council members were in attendance.  The previous meeting’s minutes and the current meeting’s agenda were passed.

New Policies and Updates

Several new policies were approved and discussed.  The first was on procedural rules for student council meetings.  The two main points were the adoption of the most recent edition of Robert’s Rules of Order and the previously mentioned offer of accommodations by the accessibility officer at the start of the meeting.  President Stacey Hutchings said that the accessibility portion in particular was a good addition.  Other student councils have this sort of structure in their meetings and the AUSU felt it would be an improvement to adopt something similar.

The second was a policy on Equitable Access and Inclusion for 2SLGBTQIA+ Students.  Councillor Iwanek stated that it had been worked on for a while because of it encompassing so many different experiences and identities.  She noted that AUSU as an organization thought it is important to involve the wider community in the formation of such policies for thoroughness.  The committee reached out to AU Women’s Studies Assistant Professor Tobias Wiggins and AU student Grayson Thate for advice in developing the policy.  The Councillor added that the committee tried their best to use definitions with the most current language, commenting that it can be a difficult task as the language evolves quickly and that the policy will have to be revised to keep up with changing times.  A lot of research was put into detailing why the policy needs to exist and what barriers the students in the community are facing.  She concluded by saying that as an organization AUSU wants to use affirming language and the pronouns preferred by those addressed, and pointing out the complexity involved in the formation of such a policy in comparison with other post-secondary institutions with similar policies that mainly operate in person, given that AU has a digital campus.

The election conduct policy received grammatical corrections and the removal of a fee for a running candidate to make a complaint.  Previously, if the candidate wanted to make a complaint or ask for a recount they would be charged $100.  President Hutchings noted that this change makes the election process more user-friendly and equitable, since it’s possible the fee would be a barrier to fairness in the election process for some participants.

The council also passed an initial formulation for the terms of reference for the Indigenous Circle at AUSU.  President Hutchings and VP of Finance and Administration Almigdad Eldoma emphasized that the council wanted the Circle to not see this formulation as a set of rules set in stone, and that it would be open for them to propose changes moving forward.  “It’s a step toward decolonization,” the President said.

Councillor Eldoma added, “It’s not just a concrete set of rules.  We want them to redo the policies as they see fit.  It signifies doing what is demanded and right by those around us and the country.  It’s a really cool way to push forward what we’ve been advocating, and it counts as evidence that we’re moving toward what we say, not just saying it.” VP External Karen Fletcher wanted to know about the process for becoming part of the Circle.  The President responded that for the 1st year it will be by appointment, however the 2nd year’s circle will be determined in a general election process.

Member Engagement and Communications Committee (MECC) Appointment

Lorie Tran was appointed as the member-at-large for this committee.  Executive Director Jodi Campbell said that she stood out among the applicants for the role, and that the decision for her appointment was unanimous.  The Director was happy with overall engagement, remarking that it often feels like a mystery at the beginning of a search like this.  Three candidates stepped forward and they were deliberated over extensively.

Ms. Tran was chosen because she has several years of experience, and in her interview process she talked a great deal about the importance of community development.  It was felt that she would be a great fit for the committee because of, among other reasons, her active Psychology Association membership and her substantial volunteer experience.  Councillor Iwanek added that she’s excited for the first meeting and that it’s fantastic to have a full committee with a member-at-large.  President Hutchings noted that what stood out for her about Ms. Tran’s application and interview process was that she seemed to understand well what MEC does, that she has relevant work and volunteer experience, and that she fits well with what the committee wants to accomplish.

Reports, Reports, Reports!

The main point from the President’s Report was that she was elected to the board of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations as treasurer.  She said that it’s good to have somebody from AUSU on the board in such a position because it allows for advocacy in finance and other domains.  “I’m excited about the opportunity to advocate for SU members as part of the board.  It’s a space to advocate equitably for all students.”

VP External Karen Fletcher was elected to the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.  She expressed that she was thrilled with this appointment, particularly because AU likely has more students of different demographics than many other post-secondary institutions (eg.  working, older), and she feels that members of these demographics are forgotten in some student councils.

In his report, VP Finance and Administration Eldoma commented that much of his time in the previous month was spent in relation to the search for new deans for the health disciplines, business, and humanities and social sciences faculties.  He stated, “it’s great that student executives have the chance to meet candidates and voice concerns.  It’s a wonderful advantage.  I want to thank AU for giving us this opportunity.  A lot of schools don’t broker it.  It allows us to get feedback from different candidates and provide feedback in the search.”

For her report, VP Community and Wellness Iwanek wished to highlight the ‘virtual student social’ that she was piloting.  It is the first one available to all AUSU members.  It is usually constituted by her and other councillors for students to drop-in and discuss anything AU or AUSU related.  She has also started a 2SLGBTQIA+ drop-in hour, and she’s pleased with the initial engagement and success she’s seeing on that front.

The VPCW also remarked that for the MECC report much time was spent reviewing services and that several podcasts have been recorded and are now available at https://www.ausu.org/services/ausu-podcast/.  She concluded with the comment that the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee is still looking for members-at-large.  Eligible candidates are encouraged to submit applications.

In his report, Director Campbell noted that after seeing an enrolment increase over the past few years, it was interesting to observe dips in enrolment for April and May, below numbers for 2019.  He also wished Social Media Coordinator Tim Hanson bon voyage as he will be moving on from AUSU to pursue another opportunity.  “He set the groundwork for what the role is going to be AUSU and we want to wish him nothing but the best and to thank him for the time he’s been with us,” the Director said.

Recognition and Acknowledgements

The President said that AUSU had done an event on Facebook Live and it was felt to have been a great engagement piece.  She expressed how helpful it was to have Mr. Hanson and Communications and Member Services Coordinator Ashley Janes for their assistance.

Councillor Eldoma joined in thanking Councillor Janes and Mr. Hanson.  “It’s been a cool thing to see you be proactive about keeping everything up to date and the various campaigns you guys have been helping with,” he said.

Director Campbell said that May and November are very heavy lifting months for the award committee.  “With us essentially doubling the awards being distributed, there were many applications the committee had to review.  I’d also like to recognize [Councillor] Regan [Johnson] for her work on awards,” he said.

Councillor Katy Lowe thanked Director Campbell for his quick responses to concerns and thoughts she had to express, even outside of normal working hours.  She said, “I don’t want my saying this to set a precedent of any kind, but I just want to say that you’re really going above and beyond.”

Next Meeting

The meeting ended at 7:24 pm, and the council reconvened, with six brand new members, on July 15, 2021 at 6:30 pm MST.  The report on that meeting should be available in the next couple of weeks.

The next meeting will be on August 19, 2021 at 6:30 pm MST.  Please write governance@ausu.org if you wish to attend, if you want other information about the council and their activities, or if you want information about the virtual events discussed above.

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