Council Connection—March 17, 2022 Meeting

The meeting was called to order at 6:32 pm MST.  AUSU Executive Director Jodi Campbell was announced as the accessibility officer.

The new President, Karen Fletcher read the land acknowledgement: “AUSU respectfully acknowledges we’re on and work on the traditional lands of the indigenous peoples, Inuit, First Nations, and Metis of Canada.  We honour the ancestry, heritage, and gifts of the indigenous peoples and give thanks to them.”

She commented that this acknowledgment isn’t her favourite, and she wondered about what it means to honour the things mentioned.  “One thing important to the team this year is trying to give space to the Indigenous Circle, which recently formed.  We’re looking forward to them being able to have a voice this year in priority selections, work plans, and the budget.  It’s important that we’re not just an organization that gives space but shares power as well.

“The particular land I’m on is that of the Anishinaabe people, which most of you know as Ottawa.  The land I’m on was set aside for loyalist refugees fleeing the U.S.  They weren’t popular during the American Revolution.  Indigenous People here set land aside from people fleeing home so they could have their own land, culture, and lives.  Whenever we talk about land acknowledgments, it’s striking that indigenous peoples here weren’t given similar treatment to what they gave others, and we have to do so much better.  I’ve been thinking recently about the incoming refugees from Ukraine, and this double standard has existed for so long in terms of Canadian indigenous peoples welcoming refugees but being given so little in return.”  She pointed to and as resources to find out about the historical territory any particular physical space may be in.

Councillors Cassandra MacKay and Indigenous Circle Representative Jo-Mary Crowchild-Fletcher were missing with regrets.  Councillor Meredith Charlton was not present.  The meeting was joined by new Councillors who will officially become part of AUSU on April 21, 2022.

The agenda for this meeting and the minutes from the previous were unanimously approved.

President Out, President In

Then-President Ms. Stacey Hutchings had tendered her resignation on February 23, 2022.  In her letter, she wrote: “I have accepted a new opportunity and am having to resign from my roles at AUSU.  I want to thank the AUSU community for trusting me these past couple of years in representing your needs on both a local (at AU), provincial, and national level.  I know that many of us when we ran for the General Election two years ago had no idea the pivot things would take due to COVID.  I am proud of the work we have accomplished; I really feel like AUSU was able to press through and thrive during a time of uncertainty.

“There are many things that come to mind that I am proud our team was able to accomplish this council term, but I will limit my thoughts to my personal top two.  First, AUSU was able to develop and launch the Food Assistance Program.  Food insecurity can impact anyone at any time and the AU community is not immune to this issue.  It was a program that was able to roll out at a time when students needed it the most.  Secondly, I am so happy, and thankful that the council decided to support the decision to join CAUS to take AUSU’s provincial advocacy to the next level.  Voices are stronger when together and I am so happy that AUSU can have a stronger voice now with the level of government that deeply impacts every AU student.

Thank you, I wish everyone the best on their journeys at AU and beyond!”

Executive Director Campbell spoke on this matter.  “It’s already been mentioned, but we’re absolutely thrilled and simultaneously disappointed that Stacey is leaving us for a fantastic opportunity with Student Financial Aid Support.  As per policy, the President’s role cannot be left vacant.  So, the VP External automatically moves into Presidency, with the former role this time being left vacant, though Ms. Fletcher is effectively covering both roles by virtue of her knowledge of the VPEx role.  Tonight is an opportunity for Council to ratify this policy.”  The Council unanimously approved now-President  Fletcher’s appointment.

Election Results

Director Campbell continued on a new topic: the Student Council Election Results.  “I find it interesting as I reflect on the recently concluded election.  Election activities started in January.  January 3, 2022 is when the Chief Returning Officer role was posted, and that’s step one.  The election lasted through the middle of March, the 15th being result day.  It has been a busy time, it flew by really, especially for the staff going through this process.  There were 10 nominations for the Council and 3 for the Indigenous Circle, many of whom are on this call.  [Governance and Advocacy Coordinator] Mr. Wojtaszek and I held an information session for potential candidates on February 22, 2022.  Later in February, we held two candidate orientations, attendance to which is mandatory for candidacy.  A variety of communications were presented to the AU community throughout the election, with our intention being to promote, inform, and create awareness of the election itself.  These included everything from social media to multiple newsletters distributed directly to the student body, and an amazing website developed with candidate info and bios, and a FAQ about the election.  I’d like to give a big high five to Communications and Member Services Coordinator Ashley Janes for spearheading that.  While it’s an all hands-on deck approach, she really does a lot of the heaving lifting involved.

“Fast-forwarding to March, the voting period was from March 10 – 14.  There were 389 votes cast to acclaim all the candidates.  In other words, everyone was successful.  I have no problem stating to Council that, even during my time in the organization, the voter turnout was low.  There will be an election debriefing with the staff and executive team in which we’ll be able to talk about what the election has been about, and what has contributed to the low turnout.  There’s no doubt schools across the province are experiencing the same thing.  My colleagues at other schools report that, so it’s not just an AU thing.  So, this is an element we want to bring into the conversation, so we can figure out ways to improve on that down the road.  In saying that, I do feel super confident that we’ve succeeded in the past, having a higher turnout.  There are a lot of great things we did this year, and I think we’ll be able to grow and learn from that moving forward.

“Now, there’s an appeals period until March 22, 2022, but the probability of there being any appeals given that every candidate was successful is pretty low.  So, we sort of see it as concluded.  We’ll be promoting job shadowing opportunities for all new Councillors, whether for attending Council or Executive meetings.  The next step is the Executive Committee election, which is in a few weeks.  There’s a poll out to make sure everyone will be able to attend.

“Regarding the election, I just want to take a second to say that everything was professionally done, with any situations arising we were able to handle quickly.  The CRO did a wonderful job, and I’d like to give big thanks to Duncan for providing a great deal of leadership and keeping track of things.

It has also been a special opportunity, with the election of the very first Indigenous Circle.  We have Trishtina with us tonight.  She was selected to represent the Indigenous Circle to the Student Council.  We’ll get to know her more and more as the years go along.”

Policy Updates

Vice-President Finance and Administration (VPFA) Leah Campbell updated the Council on policy changes.  She explained this process for new Council members.  “Policies are reviewed on an annual basis.  As VPFA, I spearhead these initiatives, with the changes going to the Executive Council for review, and then finally the Council for approval.”

Policy 2.14 Councillor Responsibilities and Honoraria and 8.02 Awards Committee terms of Reference were updated, the former seeing an increase to the honoraria from $50 per meeting to $60, the latter seeing a bump up to $100 for the two big meetings in October and April where recipients of awards are chosen.  “These meetings are lots of work, so we’re upping the honoraria based on a Council survey from a month ago.”  These changes were unanimously approved.

Annual Report

Director Campbell spoke on the organization’s annual report.  “This is obviously an important document for the organization.  Ashley does a lot of heavy lifting regarding communications for the organization throughout the year.  One of our primary goals this year was to provide a lot of infographics while including enough data in them.  You don’t have to go back far in our history when it was all text, and a heavy, long read.  We tried to bring in images as appropriate for the organization, which, at the moment. are mostly Zoom photos, which is ok for now but that will eventually change.  We wanted to provide stats and our audited financials.  At the end of the day, it will be on AUSU’s website and it becomes a historical document, which is maintained year over year.  I want to give a big high five to Ashley and everyone contributing.  It looks really, really sharp.”

Ms.  Fletcher said, “For new councillors, in November we sent out a huge survey to ask students questions.  Ashley does a ton of work putting this together.  It’s something the University finds helpful, and we do too when we can say, ‘Look at what the students are saying.’  When what we ask for from the University lines up with the survey, it’s helpful for getting students the things they need.”

AUSU Indigenous Student Award

She continued on a new topic, “One thing we’ve been tasked with is developing an Indigenous Students award.  AU has a number of two-a-year awards.  We try to get money back into student pockets.  We consider financial need, academic excellence, and volunteering.  So while we try to have something for everything, we didn’t have an award for indigenous students.  This is something the Executive Council is tasked with.  We talked to Awards at AU, and unlike many of our awards this one will be processed by the University.  The reason is that if it was done by AUSU, we would want the Indigenous Circle to do it, but that would make those members ineligible because it would be a conflict of interests.  AU already has a number of awards for indigenous learners.  They go out every January.  This new one will be bundled with those and it will be called the AUSU Indigenous Students award.  Since AU is handling the award, it will benefit from ads and communications targeting indigenous students so they’re aware of the awards.  Recipients will be selected by Nukskahtowin staff, so they will be selected by an indigenous team and Indigenous Circle members will be eligible to apply if they choose.”

Virtual Food Assistance Program

President  Fletcher then addressed the group on this program.  “Ashley made a lovely flyer about the program’s one-year anniversary.  For those who may not know, this is a passion-project of Stacey’s.  Lots of SUs have food banks, but it’s hard to do one with an online institution, there not being a corner of some building where we can put food for students to take.  She spent a long time trying to figure out how to do this in a virtual space.  What she came up with has been really well-received, and she deserves credit for persisting when people wondered how it would happen.  The way it’s done is by lottery.  Students apply and are selected by a random number generator.  They can get it once a year.

“This year, 382 people applied.  58% had dependents (often children, but not always: it could be elderly relatives or other family you’re supporting), 77% belonged to multi-person homes, almost half were unemployed, 62% were full-time learners at AU, but only 20% got a gift card.  This demonstrates there’s still unmet need.  The program’s something we’re happy to have, and we look forward to its continuation and expansion.”

Director Campbell had this to say: “Even though it’s a pilot project, this year it’s seen a lot of growth with the donation eventually received from AU.  The program hit a sweet spot with the AU community as well.  With funds targeted at awards programs and this one, we were able to enhance this year’s offerings.  Starting in February 2020, we would distribute $50 gift cards for major grocers of the recipient’s choice.  Starting this fiscal year, October 2021, we were able to double that.  For the current year, we will be able to distribute about $8000 – $8500 for this.  We get an average of 40 – 70 applicants in a month.  The feedback we’ve received is that everyone loves it.  The recipients show overwhelming gratitude, saying how much it impacts their lives.  It’s only $100, but everyone who’s been to a grocery store recently should recognize the significant food inflation there.  I’m hoping when the next budget season rolls around we’ll be able to continue with $100 gift cards rather than reverting back to $50.”

President Fletcher added, “It’s interesting to see the comments in the applications.  It dispels the misconception that because AU students tend to be older, that they’ll be working with their needs met.  It shows that food insecurity is a problem, and more needs to be done.  It highlights the financial advocacy we do for students is really, really important.”


President Fletcher reported that a major part of February was advocacy week.  AUSU is part of CASA (The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations).  Related to this, she wished to highlight her ability to participate in meetings with high-ranking politicians.  She said, “I’ve been talking to everyone who will listen this year about this issue: a married person applying for loans currently needs their spouse’s permission, and the application process takes the latter’s income into account, which lowers the former’s eligibility.  This is a huge gender equality issue, because it disproportionately affects women.  It also disproportionately affects AU students since more of them are older, there’s a higher probability they’ll be married or common law.  This is unjust and unfair.  One of the meetings involved Canadian Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough.”  President  Fletcher commented that Minister  Qualtrough said this state of affairs is ridiculous, and she will get to work on fixing that.  President  Fletcher noted it is possible the relevant laws will be changed within a year or so, and she was grateful to have the opportunity to participate in that meeting.

Vice-President Community and Wellness (VPCW) Natalia Iwanek said, “For my report, I want to bring attention to Black History Month, which was celebrated throughout February.  We had themed AUSU nights, which had super fantastic turnouts.  There was also social media content and the AUSU Thinkers Series, this time featuring Husoni Raymond, who is a former student, current law student, and a cofounder of Black Lives Matter Fredericton.  I also spent the month liaising with other SUs, including Capilano University in North Vancouver, as well as Open University’s (U.K.) executive team.  We discussed Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion.”

Director Campbell reported that the Awards Committee had been going through emergency bursaries in the previous month.  He noted that the computer bursary applications were a bit lighter, and everything was going along without issue.

He also noted that The Indigenous Circle met and had a comprehensive discussion about what consultation should look like in the next year, generating a solid plan to make sure they have the opportunity to weigh in on priorities and projects that are going to happen.

Director Campbell said, “For those of you who were able to attend the AU Frontline Learners Services Tranfsormation Project, I want to thank you for volunteering.  When student volunteer opportunities come up, we love to share those with Councillors.  The fact you’re able to attend is great.  I can speak on behalf of the organizers in saying they’re thankful for the input you provided in that workshop.”

Thanks and Acknowledgments

President  Fletcher wished to thank Councillor Katy Lowe for being passionate about student research.  She said, “Katy is the reason we had Student Research Week.  Because of this, resources were developed for students that likely wouldn’t have been otherwise.  I met with the University’s VP of Research and he was so impressed with AUSU’s leadership in this matter that he said AU will do it again next year.  I’m super thrilled about how you were really a voice for students and made sure your voice was heard, because everyone’s voices and passions are important.  That’s true if you’re on the Executive Committee or not.  I want to give you props because what you’ve worked on will continue as a legacy.”

VPFA Campbell thanked AUSU staff for their work on the election, making sure communications went out, and handling the strike at the University.  She also wanted to thank President Fletcher for stepping into her role as President, saying, “you didn’t skip a beat, and there were no hiccups, so I want to give you mad props for that.”

VPCW Iwanek said, “It’s sad to see Stacey go.  I’m excited for her.  Thank you, Karen, for stepping up and providing leadership and support in what has been a hectic month.  It’s probably the worst possible time for this to have happened and you’ve done a fantastic job.  I also wanted to give a huge thank you to the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, and Membership Engagement Committees, and the Indigenous Circle for their labour and input throughout the year.  What we accomplished in terms of events and advocacy priorities has been fantastic and, honestly, we could not have done it without everyone.”


Newly elected member of the Indigenous Circle, Trishtina Godoy-Contois asked “How do the impressions in the Community and Member Services Report work with our student app?  Is it relatively easy to be able to see how people are interacting with each post, or is it hard to capture that information?”

Communications and Member Services Coordinator Ashley Janes answered, “That’s all generated through insights in the back-end of the app management tool.  From what I can tell, though I haven’t clicked too far past one or two clicks, I can’t see specific engagement.  That would be a Samantha [Danielle, Social Media Coordinator] thing, monitoring conversations and how students engage with each other.  What I provide you with is straight data given to me by the app.”

Trishtina responded, “It’s so interesting for me.  It must be challenging for you guys to keep track of engagement with students, right?  So I thought it was cool to see that behind the scenes.”

The meeting ended at 7:27 pm.  The next meeting will be at 6:30 pm on April 21, 2022.  Please email if you would like more information on the Council or how to attend the next meeting.

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