July Executive Blog

Students at Athabasca University are busy.  At AU, our peers are often working full- or part-time, and many have children or other family commitments as well.  Add this to the fact that we are all studying independently and spread out across Canada and around the world…. and you’ve got a student body that is typically less than informed about what’s happening behind the scenes at AU.

That’s where we come in.  As your elected representatives, AUSU Council and Executive represent the larger student body on over 20 committees annually.  In my 15 months or so as the AUSU President, I haven’t come across many decisions at AU that I didn’t support on your behalf.  A quick review of the minutes from GFC or the Board of Governors will show that I often speak up and ask questions for you… but I’m usually in support.

In January of this year, I attended a Faculty Council meeting with the Faculty of Health Disciplines (FHD).  On the agenda there were a series of motions to make significant changes to the Bachelor of Nursing programs.  Usually, when a faculty decides to change a program, all students currently enrolled in the program aren’t affected; program changes are made to the following year’s program and will apply to anyone enrolling going forward.  However, these particular changes were to be applied retroactively and would immediately affect the 1500 or so students in the BN programs at AU.  I was very vocal in the meeting and spoke to the negative effect these changes would have on students and the dangerous precedent this would set.  Despite my one “nay” vote, the motions were all carried at faculty council and went on to be passed at the Academic Planning, Policy and Standards Committee.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.

On June 9, at the FHD Faculty Council, a motion was passed (with one “nay” vote from AUSU) to use a cumulative way of calculating GPA that will include transfer credits for students in the Bachelor of Nursing programs, as it applies to prerequisites for courses.  Even though AU has a policy on transfer credits and how the GPA is applied, a faculty representative confirmed that they are using the term “average grade threshold” to avoid following the AU policy in place to protect students.

AUSU Executive has been raising concerns about these retroactive changes everywhere we can since January.  We have met with the Dean of the Faculty of Health Disciplines, the Interim President, the Interim VP Academic and the Associate VP of Student and Academic Services; and we have raised our concerns about these changes with each of them.  We have also expressed concerns about these changes at General Faculties Council, and at the Academic Affairs committee of the Board of Governors.

We have continued to record a significant amount of concerns from students in the Faculty about the effect that these changes were having on them.  We aren’t convinced that a full review of these changes has taken place, despite our best efforts to relay the concerns from students.  Last week, AUSU Executive agreed that this is a situation that demands our full attention.  We have committed to:

  • Continue to create awareness of the retroactive program changes in the Faculty of Health Disciplines at AU, by writing a series of letters to AU Faculty, Administration, and the Board of Governors;
  • Gather as much information and research on this topic as possible, by submitting a series of FOIPP requests on the subject to AU; and
  • Requesting a meeting with the Nursing Education Program Approval Board – the body responsible for making the final ruling to approve the program changes.

On behalf of the AUSU membership, we will continue to raise these concerns and request that the decision to retroactively apply the changes be retracted.  We will also demand that AU policy be followed in every case, and are prepared to protect AUSU members from retroactive changes to their program, course prerequisites, and awarded credit transfer.

For more detail or further explanation, please contact me at [email protected].

Shawna Wasylyshyn
AUSU President