News

AUSU Council During COVID-19

After a whirlwind 2020, we have suddenly found ourselves midway through January in the New Year. Like many AU students, I spent a subdued holiday season with my immediate household, watching the unfolding political upheaval at home and abroad. And like many students in their respective provinces, I now find myself in lockdown in Ontario.

Despite the weight of this global situation, the possibility of widespread COVID-19 vaccinations on the horizon gives many a sense of hope after a year full of uncertainty, and a year that underscored continuing inequities in our society.

Here at AUSU, life continues as usual, albeit a bit altered. In keeping with our changing world, AUSU offices are going fully remote, with all staff and student leadership working full-time from home.

For myself personally, as an immunocompromised, chronically ill, and disabled student, hearing the rhetoric and debate during this time has been difficult, as I have seen my very existence increasingly become a politicized issue. However, the possibility of digital education, virtual events, as well as remote working conditions, which undoubtedly have created barriers for many students, have also opened up a world of possibilities for individuals like myself. Specifically, a position in student leadership would not have been something I thought previously possible, as a result of accessibility issues.

The world is rapidly changing, and many individuals like myself, hope that these sorts of accommodations and steps toward equitable conditions continue, well after the pandemic ends, with increasing underrepresented voices in academia, in the workforce, and in student leadership.

For this reason, I advocate for students from a variety of backgrounds and identities, because we all deserve equitable opportunities to advance our educations, pursue our dreams, and live a life of safety and dignity.

As an organization, AUSU continues to advocate for all students during these unprecedented times, with a focus on tuition rates, mental health supports, and community building initiatives to keep us all connected and feeling a little less isolated.

On a national and provincial side of advocacy, the virtual world of COVID-19 has not stopped President Stacey Hutchings and I from collaborating with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), as well as the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS). We continue with exciting upcoming campaigns as we await the results of our advocacy efforts for Alberta 2030 from Alberta’s Ministry of Advanced Education.

On the community side, our latest contest is forthcoming, so stay tuned for a chance to win some great prizes (totalling $10,000!), as well as a new Virtual Food Assistance Program. In addition, feel free to join us for our monthly AUSUnights to get to know your fellow students. (RSVP at [email protected] for the next event on February 11 at 5 MT.)

Finally, feel free to reach out on AUSU’s 2SLGBTQIA+ Discord Server, where friends and allies are always welcome.

For more information or if you just want to say hello, send me a note!

Wishing you all safety in the New Year,

Natalia Iwanek
VP External and Student Affairs (VPEX)