What do you think are the most important topics for AUSU to focus on in 2020-21

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    • #195372

      Question for the Candidates: What do you think are the most important topics for AUSU to focus on in 2020-21?

    • #195377

      I think there are several important topics that AUSU has to focus on heading into the 2020-2021 school year. Of course one of the biggest ones is the upcoming tuition hikes in September. The ending of the tuition freeze has been extremely unfortunate in terms of timing considering COVID-19 and the oil crisis earlier in the year. The challenges that these problems present still haven’t eased and AUSU definitely needs to continue focusing on how to best help students while the tuition hike is still planned. I think that AUSU needs to advocate postponing the tuition increase, or at least ensure that the money is used as efficiently as possible to best benefit all AU students.

      I also know that the previously mentioned problems are not simply going to disappear come January 2021 so we can expect these issues to continue for a while longer. A large portion of the student body chooses AU because of its accessibility, and AUSU needs to focus on advocating to keep AU as open and flexible for AU students as possible while we continue through these difficult times and progressively return to a new normal.

    • #195378
      Natalia Iwanek

      Thanks for the question!

      I think some of the most pressing issues facing students are the 7% tuition increase, as well as the recent 2% surcharge on credit card payments. Talk of further increases in future years is worrying as well, especially with the worldwide pandemic affecting people financially, physically, and mentally. A great deal of work on the provincial and national level needs to be done. This increase has affected Alberta students a great deal, as well as out of province students.

      I’ve also noticed that AU’s response during the COVID-pandemic has also been on students’ minds. On an institutional level, there have been concerns about digital accessibility, such as the recent transition to online textbooks without the lowering of fees, as well as issues students continue to face with ProctorU invigilation. In addition, increased wait times for student support as well as tutor marking times have come up recently. As increasing institutions are transitioning to online education, I’d also like to continue working to build AU’s virtual community, as well as our reputation as an online school.

      I think that AUSU has been doing a great job so far and I’d like to continue the work, especially for underrepresented students, including the initiatives for Indigenous students, as well as students with disabilities. I’d like to look into further initiatives for mental health as well.

      For so many students, a school like AU is a lifeline or a second-chance at post-secondary education, ranging from students living in remote areas to those working and raising families, as well as those with illnesses and disabilities and those who simply don’t fit in to a traditional learning environment. As a part of AUSU, I’d focus on some of the issues that continue to affect all students, especially in these unprecedented and uncertain times.

    • #195379
      Amber McDuffe

      Thank you for the question. I believe AUSU has a challenging few years ahead of them and I am hoping I can lend my expertise to push through these times.

      One of the main concerns is of course the tuition hike, 7% per year with the possibility of 21% overall is not acceptable. If I am elected I will advocate for financial transparency and an audit of expenses to see where costs can be minimized to reduce the financial burden on students. I do not feel we currently get what we are paying for out of AU and AUSU needs to hold them accountable.

      Wait times to receive assignments marked, have questions answered and receive supports when needed are too long. This is another area we need to hold AU accountable.

      The transition to electronic text books without giving students the option of hard copies unless they want to pay more out of pocket wasn’t done with the students best interests in mind. There needs to be better consultation with the students as we are the ones ultimately paying the bills for AU. We are the customers to this business and the customers need to have their needs met.

      The lack of communication from the student finance office to funded students which can lead to students not starting their studies on time needs to end. I have personally gone toe to toe with them when I started at AU as I was supposed to start my courses in January 2020 but was not told in any of the documents I received after enrolling as a student that I would have to submit a course plan 3 months in advance. When I reached out to them I was told to bad so sad, you can start in March. This is unacceptable and unprofessional as no where on any of the documents I went through did it mention this anywhere. I have heard numerous times of students who are funded having multiple issues with the SFA office and so I feel this is something AUSU also needs to address.

      If elected I will continue to listen to your concerns and bring them to the attention of those who need to see it. I don’t feel students are respected by AU and are instead looked at as walking, talking ATMs. This needs to change and I will help to ensure this change happens.

    • #195380
      Karen Fletcher

      This is a great question!

      The two biggest issues in my mind are cost and quality. Athabasca students are paying tuition comparable to students attending brick and mortar schools but receive instruction online. This means less access to professors and support staff, libraries, and other key features of a typical university, yet the university is raising fees. Rising costs make education less accessible, and reducing access to education is a social justice issue. Additionally, the requirement that students far away from the Athabasca’s exam centres adds a considerable amount to the cost a degree for students who live further from the university.

      In terms of quality, students have the right to university employees meeting service standards. AU has standards in place, but when tutors fail to meet them students are left in the awkward position of having to follow up and wondering if that will negatively impact their grades. Additionally, this can impact students’ abilities to meet their own goals and timelines. The university’s site automatically sends an email when an assignment is submitted, I would like to see an email automatically sent to a student, their tutor, and the course coordinator whenever a tutor has not met marking time standards, so the course coordinator is aware of marking issues and the student has a natural point of contact for the issue. I would also like to see a procedure developed for what happens when tutors repeatedly fail to meet standards.

      Additionally, I’ve heard from some students that certain classes and assignments feel like a guessing game trying to figure out what the marker is looking for, which shifts the focus away from the material students are trying to learn. I would love to advocate for each course to include a marking rubric to help students understand course requirements, so they can focus on learning, which is why we’re all here.

      Administration done well is something I’m incredibly passionate about. If elected I will advocate for tutors to be accountable to meeting the service standards the university has set out and for clear communication of academic expectations to students as well as advocating to make AU more affordable.

    • #195381

      Thank you for the question, there are many pressing topics that need to be advocated in the upcoming few years for everyone. First tuition increase of 7% for 2020-21 is the number one concern on my mind, we need to know if there is any justification for this and the possibility of stopping it. This global pandemic has put financial stress not only on us the individual, but institutions such as our governments. But it shouldn’t disrupt Athabasca’s purpose to provide distance education for anyone willing to pursue their passion. This is what I will be advocating when it comes to this topic. We must work together to see all sides of this issue but as always the student’s needs are the priority. Another main area that we should be focused on comes from the day-to-day functions of Athabasca University. We’ve all been through it! Lack tech support and the frustration of ProctorU are just some of the examples that could be better to make our education experience that much smoother.
      These issues are just some of the many topics that need to be addressed for the students. I’ve dedicated my life to helping others, by using my voice to raise theirs.
      Let me be your Voice!

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