October Executive Blog

Here we are, in October.  The last 9 months have been extraordinarily busy for me, as I have led AUSU’s advocacy efforts against retrospective program changes at Athabasca University.

In my July blog, I wrote about a situation that was unfolding within the Faculty of Health Disciplines (FHD) at AU.  At the heart of the matter was that the Academic Planning, Policy, and Standards Committee had approved significant changes to the post LPN-BN program, and applied them retrospectively to all students already enrolled.  This had never been done before at AU and there was no policy related to retroactive changes at AU.

At the same time, the Faculty of Health Disciplines also passed a number of changes at the course level to apply higher GPA pre-requisites for each clinical course throughout the program.  For a detailed list of the changes, who approved them, and what the effect of them was, click here.

I was shocked to learn that these changes had been made, and had it not been for tireless and constant pressure from AUSU, they would have remained “as is” regardless of the negative, costly, and detrimental effect on students.  With the support of AUSU Council, Executive and staff; I began the biggest advocacy effort in recent memory at AUSU.  I’m pleased to report that while we are not finished yet, we have begun to see the benefit of our hard work.

On September 29, I attended the Faculty of Health Disciplines Faculty Council Meeting in person in Edmonton.  I prepared and circulated an AUSU Report to Stakeholders which detailed all of our concerns about the program changes including feedback from students, and I requested that it be added to the agenda.  I also printed dozens of copies and arrived at the meeting to represent the best interest of students.  I was pleased to find that after all of our advocacy, the Faculty Council had two motions on their agenda to adjust the program changes they made. One was to move the effective dates of their pre-requisite changes to Sep 1, 2017, which were previously put in effect for Sept 1, 2016. I was also pleased to see that the change to how GPA would be calculated as “Average Grade Threshold” was changed back to align with AU’s own policies on GPA Calculation, which excludes transfer credits.  While this solution isn’t perfect, it does allow students in the program more time to prepare for GPA pre-requisites that did not exist before.

Currently, the issue of retrospective program changes remains unresolved.  So far, AU has maintained that they have authority to make such changes, regardless of the cost or impact on students.  We disagree with this, and are concerned that such a decision is precedent setting and could have future implications, not just for students at AU, but at institutions all across Canada.

AdvocacyOn September 7, 2016, I wrote a letter on behalf of AUSU to AU’s Interim President; explaining that we are prepared to seek a judicial review on the matter of retrospective program changes.  We have yet to receive a response to our letter, but we pledge to keep students updated as the situation develops.

For more details about our advocacy efforts regarding the Faculty of Health Disciplines program changes, check out the AUSU Report to Stakeholders. You can also attend our next AUSU Council Meeting on October 13; as each meeting has a live Q & A where you can openly communicate with members of your AUSU Council.  I can always be reached at as well.

Shawna Wasylyshyn
President, AUSU