Advocacy Initiatives

We have listed below a brief overview of some of our recent advocacy initiatives. Make note, this is just a few highlights – AUSU is constantly working on many advocacy initiatives for our members so this list is not exhaustive. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected]

February 2019 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – AUSU participated in a CASA “Mental Health Matters” campaign to get students across the country to voice the need for improved mental health support for post-secondary students. You can read more about this online here.

January 2019 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – The Government of Ontario announced major changes to student financial aid in Ontario following their provincial election. Knowing this could have an impact on close to a third of AU students, AUSU partnered with over 75 students’ unions across Canada in a joint letter to the Ontario Premier Ford and Minister Fullerton, asking the government to reverse the new funding changes until proper consultation is done. In addition, AUSU reached out to the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance to find out how AUSU could help, including sharing student stories regarding how the changes to pose-secondary funding in Ontario will affect them. Find out more information about this online here.

January 2019 – Internal Advocacy – AUSU officially appointed a new Student Advisory Committee filled with 10 members-at-large from the AUSU membership. This committee will be tasked with providing student feedback on a variety of topics throughout the year, relating to both AU and AUSU. Find out more on our website here.

December 2018 – Internal Advocacy – During regular meetings with the AU VP Academic Dr. Alain May, President Simmons discussed several important topics for students

AUSU voiced concern that AU’s current plan to cancel the bookstore project and more all course content into Moodle does not help current students paying textbook fees. AU is planning to provide an e-text bursary to provide up to $50 per course for students to purchase a physical textbook.

AU is also focussing on creation of a student community hub to create a stronger community with AU students. AU and AUSU began discussion about a potential partnership on our current mobile app for the short term and possible integration of the AUSU student app with the university systems to allow greater access to AU materials such as grades and course materials in the future.

November 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – AUSU worked on evaluating AUSU’s role in provincial advocacy, including discussions of potential partnership with one of the Alberta Student Advocacy Groups, ASEC and/or CAUS. AUSU staff and president attended a CAUS meeting in Edmonton, which was informative and showed the influence that CAUS has regarding how post secondary education is affected in Alberta. During the meeting there was discussion regarding an amendment to Bill 19, which has continued to be an example of the important role that Alberta politics plays on all students, such as regulating tuition increases to a maximum of CPI. Athabasca University has now amended their tuition proposal for out-of-province students and international students to fall in line with the recommendations of Bill 19. Originally AU had proposed a 4% increase to tuition for this coming year, but now they have decreased it to 2.6%.

While it is true that a provincial advocacy group may have a lot of reach, the drawback could be that AUSU would not have the same opportunity to voice the unique needs of our organization. The AUSU executive team decided to map out a third option – for AUSU to focus on provincial advocacy alone, and what that would require from the organization.

November 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – The AUSU executive team attended the CASA Advocacy Week 2018 in Ottawa, and participated in over 160 meetings with MPs, Senators and other stakeholders on Parliament Hill regarding post-secondary issues on behalf of over 350,000 students. You can read more about Advocacy Week 2018 online here.

October 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – VPEX Goertz attended the Alberta Student’s Executive Council (ASEC) Goals Conference. ASEC is a provincial advocacy group comprised of 15 different colleges and polytechnic institutes. VPEX Goertz attended to see if a partnership with AUSU would benefit our members. Of the top four advocacy topics that ASEC identified as priories for the 2018/2019 year, there were two that would align with the interests of AUSU, including increased funding for the creation and development of Open Education Resources, and transparency from the provincial government about institutional funding.

October 2018 – Internal Advocacy – President Simmons continued to work on the Learning Framework, including incorporating the feedback that had been collected throughout the design process. President Simmons had the opportunity to sit down with members of AU Administration Matt Prineas and Jennifer Schaffer, who were both pleased to hear that the student voice was appropriately reflected in the learning framework thus far. Discussion centred on the approach that the university was currently taking regarding consultation with the students.

September 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – AUSU VP External and Student Affairs Melinda Goertz continued with work on the CASA Federal Policy Committee, including revisions to numerous policies including topics such as expanding Canada Student Loan Grant, interest free grace periods on loans, and access to quality & affordable childcare for dependants of students

September 2018 – Internal Advocacy – The AU Learning Framework plan was drafted with wide-reaching support. Next steps are to develop plans for implementation, and to get feedback from the greater public. AUSU President Brandon Simmons is involved in this process, and you can learn more in his September AUSU Executive Blog online here.

August 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – AUSU VPEX Melinda Goertz hosted a virtual tour of the Athabasca University campus for international students and students who study from outside Alberta. The event was very successful and received over 1000 views from inside and outside of Canada. You can view the tour online here.

August 2018 – Internal Advocacy – AU President Dr. Neil Fassina asked President Simmons to participate in a third-party communications consultation regarding the AU Imagine Plan. President Simmons brought up concerns raised by AUSU council, such as ensuring that AU communicates IT outages to students, as well as encouraging more student opportunities to ask questions through webinars and town hall style events with the university.

July 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – AUSU President Brandon Simmons attended the CASA Policy and Strategy Conference, which included presenting the work of the Federal Policy Committee to the CASA delegates, and further development of federal advocacy initiatives such as increased financial aid, international students, skills and employment, Indigenous student issues, and sexual violence prevention. You can read more about this conference online here.

June -July 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – AUSU VP External and Student Affairs Melinda Goertz worked with the CASA Federal Policy, which included development of a sexual violence policy and a position on targeted free tuition.

June 2018 – Internal Advocacy – President Brandon Simmons attended a joint AU General Faculties Council and Board of Governors Meeting that focused on conciliation and how the university could adapt to be more inclusive of Indigenous views in order to reach out to that demographic. There was also  conversation regarding the tutor model versus the student success center model.

May 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – AUSU VP External and Student Affairs Melinda Goertz attended the Alberta Student Leadership (ASL) conference which focused on media training, advocacy training, and on the basics of student governance. This conference was also a great opportunity to build connections between student leaders in Alberta.

May 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – AUSU Executives attended the CASA Foundations Conference to train with student leaders from across Canada on the CASA governance structure, basics of advocacy, and conducting interviews and meetings with federal leaders. Training also included workshops on policy development, the use of Basecamp and Highrise meeting tools and brainstorming on advocacy priorities for CASA for the year.

May 2018 – Internal Advocacy – AUSU President Brandon Simmons attended the AU General Faculties Council Meeting and contributed to the planning of the Learning and Teaching Steering Committee as part of the University’s new Imagine Plan. The committee will be overseeing the development of the new learning framework including a strong focus on the IT used for learning at AU. The committee originally did not include any student representation, but President Simmons proposed an amendment to include AUSU and AUGSA representatives on the committee, which was approved. You can read more about the Imagine Plan online here.

April 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – AUSU VP External and Student Affairs Melinda Goertz attended an AU Digital Governance Committee meeting to discuss the different ways that Athabasca University is looking to improve the digital, online experience for all AU students.

April 2018 – Internal Advocacy – AUSU President Simmons met with AU VP Academic Dr. Alain May to discuss student concerns with service standards at AU, specifically with delays within the Student Financial Aid Office. AU is in the process of undergoing an internal audit regarding how efficiency in student services could be improved.

March 2018 – Provincial and Federal Advocacy – The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations Annual General Meeting 2018 took place March 19thto 23rd, during which VPEX Teterenko and VPFA Simmons participated in the approval of the Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI) as a new member to CASA, changes to the Strategic Plan and operating procedures, and new policies. You can read more about this online here.

March 2018 – Internal Advocacy – AUSU President Wasylyshyn and the rest of the executive team advocated to the AU President Dr. Neil Fassina for a reduction in exam related fees at AU. Students pay to schedule a fee with less than 20 days notice, or to reschedule an exam- and these fees can be a burden.

Feb 2018 – The AUSU President advocated to the AU Associate VP of Student and Academic Services for improvements to the PLAR (Prior Learning Recognition) program due to very long wait times. AU will be devoting more resources to the PLAR program with plans to overhaul it in the future.

Feb 2018 – After extensive advocacy to AU and the Alberta government, AU will be receiving funding for mental health services. AU is now in negotiations to take of the Student Lifeline Health and Wellness program currently offered and funded by the student union.

Jan 2018 – AUSU executives presented a document with numerous requests to the AU Resource Planning Team, including limiting increates to tuition and mandatory fees for students, and reducing the exam booking and late exam fees.

Dec 2017 – It was announced during an AU Board of Governors meeting that they are considering cost saving measures for convocation, including potentially charging students to rent academic regalia!  The AUSU president spoke up very firmly against such an idea, citing that today’s graduates are tomorrow’s alumni, donors and ambassadors for AU.

Dec 2017 – It was announced during the Faculty of Business Faculty Council meeting that they had a 100% close rate on student request tickets. The AUSU president encouraged the faculty to keep tickets open for 3 business days as students sometimes have follow up questions that they cannot submit once the ticket is closed. The Faculty has agreed to implement this.

Dec 2017 – The Government of Alberta announced they are extending the current tuition freeze in Alberta through the 2018-2019 academic year. AUSU issues a press release regarding their position on this, which can be viewed online here.

Nov 2017 – The Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations brought forth a policy in favour of the Government of Canada eliminating federal income tax credits for tuition, and replace them with up-front non-refundable grants for students in financial need. The AUSU president submitted a letter to the CASA delegation in opposition to this policy as it could have a negative impact on many AU students. You can review the letter online here.

Oct 2017 – AUSU created a new position policy regarding federal and provincial income tax credits, which can be viewed online here.

Sept 2017 – AUSU President attended the AU General Faculties Council meeting and advocated about the importance of offering a broad range of courses in different disciplines, keeping the courses and their materials current and up to date, and always giving preference to pedagogy over profitability.

Sept 2017 – AUSU President attended the AU Board of Governor’s Finance and Property committee and suggested AU focus its efforts on retaining the students they already have, through quality services, excellent student support, and enhancing the student experience

Aug 2017 – AUSU has been actively advocating for changes to clinical practice procedures on behalf of students in the Faculty of Health Disciplines at AU for over a year. In August 2017, the Faculty just announced some of the positive changes AUSU has been advocating for. Find out more online here.

July 2017 – AUSU executives attended a conference for the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations (CASA), where they approved their advocacy priorities for the year. Find out more about this online here.

July 2017 – AU passed a new budget, which was originally proposing a 50% increase to all international student tuition, at a cost of $605 per course. The AUSU President advocated to grandfather in existing international students with a tuition increase of only 10% (saving $570 per course), which was then unanimously accepted by the Board of Governors.

June 2017 – AUSU council came together from across Canada for a working retreat, during which time they were able ot arrange in-person meetings with numerous key AU personnel, including VP Finance and Administration Estelle Lo, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Services David Head, Manager of Financial Administration Dave Lidell, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Dr. Veronica Thompson, Registrar Richard McLeod, Dean of Health Disciplines Dr. Margeret Edward, as well as some informal meetings with AU President Neil Fassina. The meetings offered an opportunity to further develop our AUSU relationships with AU administration and faculties. Each meeting agenda included a review of the AUSU goals, stakeholder updates, as well as a briefing on our recent #AUGoals Advocacy Campaign. In addition, staff and council was invited to the Annual Board of Governors dinner during convocation.

May 2017 – The AU General Faculties Council started an adhoc governance committee, but the AUSU President noted they did not have a position available for a student or non-academic staff member. AUSU’s president advocated for this to be added to the committee terms of reference, and was thus elected in as the student representative on the committee.

May 2017 – AUSU executives attended a conference for the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations (CASA) to represent AU students, and AUSU’s VP External and Student Affairs because the treasurer of the CASA board.

Apr 2017 – AUSU President met one-on-one with AU President Dr. Neil Fassina. The meeting focused on communication between AU and students, as well as a follow up conversation from the March meeting of General Faculties Council e-text effects on student satisfaction.

Apr 2017 – AUSU met with numerous AU executives and raised some of the advocacy concerns priorities raised in the #AUGoals Campaign that AUSU launched in March. Meetings were held with FHD Dean Dr. Edwards, AU Interim VP Advancement Rick Harland, Interim VP Academic Cindy Ives and Associate VP of Student and Academic Services Alain May, and AUSU will continue to share membership concerns from the campaign in further meetings with AU executives as well.

Mar 2017 – AUSU launched an #AUGoals campaign to collect feedback from our membership regarding what they would like AUSU to advocate to the University regarding. AUSU compiled a report on the responses to be shared with the university and to help form AUSU’s advocacy goals for the upcoming year. Top concerns from students included choice for e-texts versus physical textbooks, improved communications from AU, audio or video course content, and course content and delivery options.

Mar 2017 – AUSU’s VP External attended the AGM of the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations (CASA) at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. The conference was centered on proposals designed to increase CASA’s advocacy reach, expand its public facing policy solutions, and reform its internal workings. You can read more about this online here.

Mar 2017 – AUSU executives met with Dr. Veronica Thompson, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and discussed numerous concerns including Moodle Calendar/exam feedback, tutor response times, and a a recent petition by students on HR certification.

Mar 2017 – AUSU executive met with the Minister of Advanced Education, Marlin Schmidt, and discussed the needs of students related to student loans, distance education, tuition, and more. Minister Schmidt recognizes Athabasca University as an important part of Alberta PSE and was very engaged in the meeting.

Mar 2017 – During AUSU’s March 2017 council meeting, AUSU members consulted with Dr. Ken Coates, who was commissioned by the AU Board of Governors to complete an independent third party review of AU. During this meeting, Dr. Coates gathered insights from student perspectives into Athabasca University’s current achievements and challenges, and collected suggestions about how best to adjust to current fiscal realities and to the rapidly changing global post-secondary scene. You can read more about this consultation in the March 14 council meeting minutes here.

Feb 2017 – During a budget consultation meeting with AU, AUSU executives expressed concerns to AU that any fee increases should come with an increased level of service and service standard, and also advocated for savings related to the e-text initiative being passed down to students.

Feb 2017 – AUSU executives met with AU President Dr. Neil Fassina and AU Interim VPIT John Latremouille to discuss the views and concerns of students, including consistency in moodle, consistency in terminology, improved communication to students, O365 and some of its features, implementation of student email, Moodle calendar, AU Sexual Violence Policy, and exam feedback

Jan 2017 – Thanks to AUSU’s advocacy efforts and a commitment towards student service from AU, the AU Student Academic Appeals Committee revised their regulations to allow students charged with academic misconduct to receive a warning for first time offenses instead of automatic suspension.

Jan 2017 –  AUSU continued to advocate to the AU Board of Governors for consideration of individual circumstances for students in the Faculty of Health Discipline who have been adversely affected by the program changes.

Dec 2016 – During the General Faculties Council meeting, AUSU continued to advocate regarding the retroactive changes in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, including asking that the new pre-requisite of a 3.0 GPA for entry into core program courses be reviewed as they contravened prior decisions made by higher governing bodies (APPSC and NEPAB). AUSU also pointed out errors in the AU President’s report regarding their proposed solutions regarding these program changes, including the fact that the letter finally sent to students in the FHD programs did not describe the program changes, was not individualized as reported, and claimed that no exceptions would be made despite AU previously committing to consider exceptions on numerous occasions.

Dec 2016 – AUSU advocated for improved and more consistent communications between AU and the student body during a Board of Governors Institutional Advancement Committee meeting.

Nov 2016 – AUSU executives traveled to Ottawa for CASA Advocacy Week, during which they met with numerous MP’s and Senators to advocate for accessible and affordable post-secondary education in Canada. The federal government subsequently outlined many improvements to the post-secondary system in Canada, which you can read more about online here.

Nov 2016 – AUSU executives met with the new AU President, Dr. Neil Fassina as well as other AU executives and advocated on numerous topics including e-texts and cost-savings for students, accountability and service standards, improved communication with AU students, tuition fees, Nursing program courses and clinical sign-ups, among other topics.

Oct 2016 – The AUSU President attended the AU General Faculty Council and added an agenda item (despite protest from the council chair) to discuss the retroactive program changes in the Faculty of Health Disciplines to ensure that the situation was logged in the public record. She also addressed the council to outline some of the issues that student have faced as a result of these changes, after which AU’s President and VPA both openly committed to reviewing and changing policy and procedure where needed to ensure that retroactive changes are better managed in the future.

Sept 2016 – AUSU President prepared a report to stakeholders regarding the retroactive program changes in the Faculty of Health Disciplines and how the changes have effected students, and circulated this to the FHD Faculty Council members. During the Sept 29, 2016 FHD Faculty Council meeting, they voted to adjust two program changes they recently made – one to move the effective dates of their pre-requisite changes to Sep 1, 2017 (previously put in effect for Sept 1, 2016), and one to change to how GPA is calculated back to align with AU’s own policies on GPA Calculation (instead of the FHD newly implemented “Average Grade Threshold”, which included transfer credits). These changes were made as a direct result of AUSU’s advocacy efforts. Read more about this here.

Sept 2016 – AUSU has continued to aggressively advocate against the retroactive program changes in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, including seeking legal counsel and sending a letter to the AU President outlining why the retroactive program changes exceeds the statutory authority of both the General Faculties Council and the Board of Governors (or their delegates) under the Post-secondary Learning Act, as well as pointed out that the changes were made without justification or a recommendation by CARNA, and were done without considering the impact to students. Read more about this here.

July 2016 – AUSU submitted a series of information requests to AU under the FOIP act to aid in our advocacy efforts against the retroactive Nursing program changes. Read more about this here. AUSU also met with the President and other AU Executives to discuss the retroactive program changes, and were informed that due to AUSU’s advocacy efforts, the Faculty of Health Disciplies is required to take the change in pre-requisite GPA calculation to APPSC before it will be able to be implemented

June 2016 – AUSU submitted a series of letter advocating for a reversal of the retroactive Nursing program changes, which were sent to the Nursing Education Program Approval Board, the AU interim President, Interim Board Chair, Interim VP Academic, Associate VP of Student and Academic Services, Dean of the Faculty of Health Disciplines, the Registrar, and the Ombud’s Office.

June 2016 – AUSU has been continuously receiving individual advocacy cases by members in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, relating to the retroactive program changes. AUSU contacted the University to advocate on many specific cases, and all cases were approved. AUSU also held meetings with the Dean and Faculty members of the Faculty of Health Disciplines, the AU Academic Affairs Committee, the AUS interim VP Academic, the Associate VP of Student and Academic Services, and the AU interim President to raise the concerns of our membership and advocate against the retroactive changes.

Jun 2016 – AUSU met with various AU executives, including the Associate VP of Student and Academic Services and the VP Academic, and raised the concerns our members have over e-texts and why we are advocating for choice and cost savings sharing.

Apr 2016 – AUSU Executives met with the Minister of Advanced Education to advocate for AU funding. Read more about this here.

Feb 2016 – AUSU Executives went to Ottawa for the CASA Advocacy Week to advocate to the government for post-secondary education in Canada and for AU. Read more about this here.

Jan 2016 – AUSU began advocating against the retroactive program changes to the Faculty of Health Disciplines program to the AU Board of Governors. Read more about this here.

Dec 2015 – AUSU launched a survey to all AUSU members to get feedback about AU’s service standards and response times. The results were posted and discussed with various VP’s and Executives at AU. Read more about this here.

Nov 2015 – AUSU attended a CASA conference and took on roles in multiple CASA committees to help AU students have a voice at the national level. Read more about this here.

Oct 2015 – AUSU President advocated for better service standards for AU students at the AU General Faculties Council meeting. Read more about this here.

Sept 2015 – AUSU held meetings with multiple VP’s at AU to advocate for AU students and find out about current AU initiatives. Read more about this here.

Aug 2015 – AUSU became part of CASA, the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations, as well as numerous other advocacy efforts. Read more about these here.