Council Connection—April 21, 2022 Meeting

The meeting was called to order at 6:30 pm MST.  Executive Director Jodi Campbell was announced as the accessibility officer.  President Karen Fletcher read the land acknowledgement: “Athabasca University Students’ Union respectfully acknowledges that we are on and work on the traditional lands of the Indigenous Peoples (Inuit, First Nations, Métis) of Canada.  We also recognize that our student members span across the lands we now know as Canada and abroad, and we acknowledge and celebrate these Indigenous histories, languages, and cultures.  As an organization, AUSU is committed to decolonization, reconciliation, and conciliation efforts, acknowledging that there is much to unlearn.  AUSU will continuously strive to build equitable relationships with Indigenous learners at AU, as well as Indigenous members and staff within AUSU, advocate with and for Indigenous learners through consultation, and create spaces that are inclusive, respectful, and equitable.”  President Fletcher mentioned https://www.native-land.ca/ and https://www.whose.land/ as resources for discovering which people a given physical location belonged to.  The previous meeting’s minutes and the current agenda were accepted unanimously.  Councillors Cassandra MacKay, Meredith Charlton, and Indigenous Circle Representative Jo-Mary Crowchild-Fletcher were not present for this meeting.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

A new plan for the SU’s EDI committee was submitted and unanimously approved (available here: https://www.ausu.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/2022-04-AUSU-EDI-Plan.pdf).  Of note, here are the committee’s six goals for the coming year:

  • AUSU will advocate for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC’s) Calls to Action, within the organization, the university, the provincial and federal governments, and all external advocacy efforts.
  • AUSU will create more equitable, diverse, and inclusive spaces within the organization.
  • AUSU will celebrate the voices and experiences of equity-seeking groups within the organization.
  • AUSU will create accessible spaces within the organization, and advocate to the university and all external advocacy efforts.
  • AUSU will advocate for EDI principles at AU.
  • AUSU will advocate for EDI principles at the provincial and federal levels.

Vice-President Community and Wellness (VPCW) Natalia Iwanek said, “This document reflects what we’ve done as an organization, particularly during this term.  However, it also covers AUSU in previous terms, underscores advocacy for equity seeking students, policy work, and different events we’ve put on, all of which is based on work done in consultation with various AUSU committees.”

New Executive Committee

Executive Director Campbell formally announced the results of the recent executive election for the Council.  “It was a pleasure to be able to host the initial exec meeting,” he said.  “Everyone attended and it was a great meeting with some great questions for the candidates.  I’m really proud to announce that Karen Fletcher is coming back as President.  Trishtina Godoy-Controis was chosen for VP External and Indigenous Circle Representative, Dur-E-Najaf Syed for VP Finance and Administration, and Natalia Iwanek for VP Community and Wellness.  On behalf of AUSU I want to congratulate the four of you.  Thank you for putting your names forward for essential positions within AUSU.  Congratulations to all, and I just want to say our recent meeting was a cool opportunity to get to know each other, and of course elect the new executive committee.”

Reports

Regarding her report, President Fletcher commented that the major thing to happen recently was that there wasn’t a strike at AU.  “I’m sure we’re all thrilled about that,” she said.  “We spent a lot of time planning for a strike and advocating that there not be one, and for the things students needed.  We’re really pleased we didn’t have to go through with any of our contingency plans and that students will be able to continue on their own.”

Vice-President Finance and Administration (VPFA) Leah Campbell’s report contained information on learner support services (including discussion of a data breach of Homewood Health), a Frontline Learner Support Transformation Workshop, a meeting with the Athabasca University Faculty Association President Dave Powell, and a presentation on Recognizing and Avoiding Investment Scams.  VPFA  Campbell commented, “It’s been an honour to serve with you all.  I’m kind of sad right now that I’m leaving.”

Executive Director Campbell had this to say about his report: “Historically speaking this is a real milestone meeting for us.  Whenever we have a changeover it’s a real signal of passing the baton, if you will, from one set of councillors to the next.  All of the work, discussions, conversations, debate, and laughs we have along the way mean a great deal to the organization.  I very much want to formally thank everybody for the contribution of those who are leaving.  We wish you nothing but the best.  Some of you are graduating and moving on to amazing careers.  You’ve left things better than you found them.  We couldn’t ask for more and we appreciate your dedication to AU students.  At the end of the day, our job is to serve them.  I can’t say enough about what you’ve done.  Now you get to pass the baton on to the next group.  I’ll just end by mentioning a podcast I hosted with Richard McCloud on the ongoing Integrated Learning Environment project.  If you’re interested in what’s going on in terms of the computer ‘backend’ of how AU course materials are distributed, go ahead and listen.”

Communications and Member Service Coordinator Ashley Janes reported that AUSU’s LinkedIn Learning and VMock pages had seen steady increases with both registration and engagement.  She said, “The VMock data shows that we have gone from the low hundreds of students who signed up for it to now approximately 1200 in the past 10 or 11 months.  I think that’s good, and we should celebrate this trend of growth in service utilization.  The better news is that we have more strategies put in place to continue these increases.  I think all around this is fairly fantastic news.”

Council Dissolution and Formation

The then-extant Council was dissolved with unanimous approval.  Ms. Fletcher commented on how she couldn’t believe how sad she was at the moment, and she couldn’t believe that it had already been so long.  “[Councillors] Katy [Lowe] and Regan [Johnson] have been so helpful to figure out what we’re doing, as I came in the byelection after them.  I didn’t expect to be on the border of tears, but here we are.  We have a lovely group coming in that we’re super excited about.”

The tradition of all incoming Councillors swearing their oath simultaneously was cacophonously upheld: “I do solemnly swear that I will support, uphold, and defend the mission of the Athabasca University Students’ Union at Athabasca University.  I take this obligation freely and will adhere to and respect the bylaws, policies, and all other facets of the Union while doing the work to decolonize Athabasca University.  I will always strive to enhance the quality of the learning experience of AU students and all distance learners; while advocating for the unique needs of the AUSU membership and fulfilling my council duties with honesty and integrity.”

10 voices rang out with this oath, and, to their credit, it was nearly intelligible.

The new committees were formed as follows:

Finance: Eva Notter, Blake Collett, Amber McDuffe, Rebecca Wuebbolt, Cilhane Ahmed, with Dur-E–Najaf Syed chairing.

Awards: Cilhane Ahmed, Blake Collett, Eva Notter, and Amber McDuffe.

Membership Engagement and Communications: Amber McDuffe, Rebecca Wuebbolt, Trishtina Godoy-Controis, and Allie Wojtaszek.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Natalia Iwanek, Eva Notter, Allie Wojtaszek, Anli He, and Amber McDuffe.

Recognition and Acknowledgment

Ms. Katy Lowe wished to express her gratitude for the organization.  “I’m so thankful for having had the opportunity to work alongside some truly amazing people,” she said.  “I feel like I’ve grown great professional relationships.  I’ve learned so much from you all, gaining really true friendships that I cherish and hold close to me.  This has been a genuinely life-changing, empowering, and exciting experience.  I look forward to spending time with you all.  When I had crazy ideas, you made them happen.  I don’t want to say goodbye.  I want to stay with you all.  Please continue to talk to me.  I’ll be lonely and sad if you don’t.  I want to celebrate amazing things AUSU does.  It has been the biggest highlight of my academic life.”

Ms. Leah Campbell said, “Ditto.  I’m having a hard time speaking right now.  I’m sorry.  I want to give a shoutout to Natalia for the EDI report and accessibility plan.  That’s her labour right there.  I’m just so proud of you and I’m glad I got to serve with you.  With Karen unexpectedly stepping into the role of President, I just want to say I will follow you anywhere.”

Councillor McDuffe wanted to give shoutouts to Ms. Lowe and Ms. Regan Johnson for taking her under their wings.  “When I first joined I found myself very intimidated.  I was new, I didn’t know anyone or what to expect, and these two were there for me to help me navigate my way through it.  In the first Council meeting I attended, the three of us had a group chat in which I asked, ‘Will it be dumb to ask this?’ and they said, ‘No, no, just go ahead and ask!’ I’m excited to see where you’ll both go in your futures.”

VPCW Iwanek commented on how fantastic it was to work with Ms. Lowe and Ms.  Johnson.  “I don’t know where the time went.  I’m so glad to have met you both.  Leah, I don’t know how 4 months have gone by.  I love the team.  I think we accomplished so much and what you two added was absolutely incredible.”

Q & A

One participant was interested in why the meetings are run according to Robert’s Rules of Order (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert%27s_Rules_of_Order).  For example, they were interested to know why any motion needs two people to promote any topic of discussion.  President Fletcher explained the necessity for the formalism by explaining that one of the functions of the Rules is to prevent any one participant from repeatedly, or at all, discussing issues that wouldn’t be supported by other persons.

It was also asked if it’s a regular practice to allow non-executives to sit for executive meetings, or if it was just a one-time thing for everyone to get a feel for it.  Mr.  Campbell said, “Yes, it’s typically just one time.  We open them up once in a while for job shadowing and other opportunities.  But if you want to bring things forward, do so to an executive and they will raise it in their meeting; Councillors typically don’t attend.”

Managing Editor of The Voice Magazine Karl Low was interested in whether Ms.  Godoy-Controis, in her capacity as Indigenous Circle Representative, had any obligations or privileges that an ordinary Council member would have.  Ms.  Fletched answered, “She actually is a member of the Council.  We’ve changed things a bit.  We now have 12 regular Council members who are elected in the normal fashion.  With the introduction of the Indigenous Circle, the process is once they’ve formed they nominate one of their members to have a special seat on the Council reserved for them.  That person is a Councillor.  It’s a special spot on the Council, but that person is a Councillor like any other.”

The meeting ended at 7:40 pm.  The next meeting will be at 6:30 pm on May 19, 2022.  Please email governance@ausu.org if you would like more information on the Council or how to attend the next meeting.

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