Exec Blog: April 2016

Many AU students have either read or heard something regarding the sustainability of the university, or the rumors that it may have to close its doors. This information is very troubling to students as AU plays such a vital role in the lives of those who attend it. While it is still true that the university is unsustainable at this time, there has been a lot of recent support given towards AU from the government, including a statement that AU will not be closing!

On April 5 AUSU and AUGSA executives were able to meet with the Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt to discuss the current situation of AU. We had three items on our Agenda that we wanted to discuss. The items were as follows:

  1. The importance and uniqueness of Athabasca University,
  2. Funding to AU and the detriment of uncertainty, and
  3. An invitation for Minister Schmidt to attend convocation.

From left to right: AUSU Executive Director Sarah Cornett, AUGSA VP Academic Teagan Gahler, AUSU VP Finance Brandon Simmons, Minister of Advanced Education Honourable Marlin Schmidt, AUSU President Shawna Wasylyshyn, AUGSA Executive Director Ross Tyson. (Not shown: AUSU VP External Colleen Doucette).

Our goal for the meeting was to help Minister Schmidt realize the importance of AU in the lives of its students. The fact that AU is both an Open and Online institution has allowed so many students to obtain a post-secondary education that they otherwise would not have been able to. I know that this is true in my case, and I have heard many other stories similar to my own. This is also why we extended an invitation for Minister Schmidt to attend the 2016 Convocation so that he can meet our students and hear how being able to attend AU has changed their lives. We are not sure if the Minister will be able to attend as we know it is a busy time of year, but we hope that he will as it is the only real opportunity to meet our students in person.

After our meeting, it was apparent that the government does understand the key role that Athabasca University plays, and they do not want the university to close. As we moved onto our second topic regarding the harm that the uncertainty surrounding the university is causing, Minister Schmidt specifically told us that the university will not close and agreed that we could quote him on this.

It is comforting to know that the government is dedicated to the success of Athabasca University. AU students can now find some peace of mind now knowing that the university will not be closing its doors. That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that university is able to be sustainable. We need all those involved to keep in mind that students are the heart of the university. We are the entire reason the university exists and this needs to be in the forefront of the minds of all parties involved with coming up with a solution.

I am so proud to be an Athabasca University student, and I hope that the government, university executives, and university staff can all work together to help AU continue to help students receive a great education and change their lives.

Brandon Simmons
AUSU VP Finance and Administration (until April 14, 2016)
AUSU VP External and Student Affairs (after April 14, 2016)