President Karen Fletcher was absent due to travel, so Executive Director Jodi Campbell chaired the February 16th, 2023 meeting, which commenced at 6:03 PM MT; Councillor Allie Wojtaszek was not in attendance either. Executive Director Campbell called Governance and Advocacy Coordinator Duncan Wojtaszek to assist with accessibility moderation as he may be occupied with chairing the meeting.
With land acknowledgments read and both agenda and previous meeting minutes adopted, Executive Director Campbell moved into action items. Coordinator Wojtaszek is currently organizing sessions for workshopping the bylaws which were sent back for additional adjustments at the last meeting. Vice President of Finance and Administration (VPFA) Dur-E-Najaf Syed updated Council on her work for a policy committee “We are currently looking into the best way to renew how AUSU does our policies. We are going to begin to release them weeks before to Council to allow for better consultation on policies; this way, we can get everyone’s opinions.”
Vice President of Community and Wellness (VPCW) Natalia Iwanek has been working on revising the EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) committee’s terms of reference, the policy that sets out how the very EDI is organized and operates. As this is a committee that was only formed two terms ago, they are still working through what works, and these changes are based on conversations with Council as well as with the EDI committee. The most substantive change is to remove the co-chair role. It was initially put in place to bring more voices to the table but has changed direction, and instead of having a co-chair role, they will expand all roles on the committee and increase meeting frequency.
Council also moved to add an Accessibility and Accommodations policy to AUSU’s Position Policy Manual. This policy, that VP Iwanek has been working on, shifts the focus of Accessibility and Accommodations from internal governance matters to advocacy for students. Both proposed motions passed.
Growing the Indigenous Circle
Vice President External and Indigenous Circle Representative Trishtina Godoy-Contois has been working to appoint more members to the Indigenous Circle (IC) and asked Council to vote in favour of the appointment of Juanita Powder, Amanda Leeman, Jennifer Nabess, Kate Hamshere, Rylee Feschuk, Janis Guillion, Joni Roy, Sasha Chiefbody, and Sonya Stuffco-McGee. She spoke about how all these candidates are very active and engaged. VP Godoy-Contois also spoke on some of the work IC is doing “We are taking back a couple of things to work on ourselves, which is kind of creating a bit of work plan, figuring out how to make sure that the Indigenous Circle isn’t performative but also has room within AUSU to engage with everyone that’s involved.” The motion passed, which brought the IC membership up to 13 members.
Executive Director Campbell presented his report on the survey results sent out in November. Most survey respondents were program students in Alberta in 1st or 2nd year, though there were students from every province and territory. A wide range of topics was covered in this survey; the top concerns among students were increased access to student financial aid, lowering education costs and increasing quality of education, with over 80% looking for media components to courses and many students expressing frustration.
Unsatisfied numbers remain low, but it was noted that there are still many who don’t know about AUSU services or are confused about how AUSU is separate from AU. The big question they asked this year: Why AU? The answer was as expected; many students chose AU for its flexibility and accessibility.
Health Plan Budget Expenditure Overage
The next item up for discussion is a rate increase coming in 2023 for the benefits package with Alberta Blue Cross, which will create an $8,280 overage. It was supposed to take place immediately, but AUSU negotiated a delay until March 1st, 2023, as it must be approved by Council.
Councillor Amber McDuffe questioned whether we could explore changing to a Canada-wide plan to include students, as this is something students are asking for, as indicated in the survey. McDuffe proposed an opt-in model where students would pay for their own plan at a discounted group rate. Executive Director Campbell explained that an issue with students all across Canada and the ebb and flow nature of enrollment makes this difficult, but he will liaise with Alberta Blue Cross to see if this model could work. With Councillor McDuffe opposed; the motion passed.
EDI Recommendations & Audit
VPCW Iwanek presented the EDI 2022-2023 report, which includes recommendations to set EDI goals, many of which are based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Executive Director Campbell acknowledged the great work the EDI committee is doing and that much of the work is setting the bar for AU. The motion passed unanimously. The EDI audit was not presented this time as they were still looking for more information.
With the reports, VPCW Iwanek spoke about some of the projects in the works; the EDI committee recorded a podcast, January was full of advocacy events for student financial aid, and Black History Month events, including one event that was recorded and will be released as a podcast as well. Executive Director Campbell updated Council that they were successful in obtaining the $2 discount on the Student Price Card (SPC) for AU students, and a Point-Of-Sale website is currently in development on SPC’s end.
If you are interested in observing council meetings, join AUSU every third Thursday of the month or visit www.ausu.org to see what Council is up to.