ASA AGM Discusses Transparency, Accountability, and Funding

BY AMIELLE CHRISTOPHERSON

For just over two hours on Nov. 28, the many members of the Augustana Students’ Association (ASA) presented updates and information on what they have been up to over the Fall 2018 semester.
One of the major highlights from the evening came from VP Finance, Nnenna Achebe. She announced that, when the ASA had their financials looked at in May 2018, they were told there was a surplus. Which is a good thing, even though the ASA is a not-for-profit. Achebe explained that this surplus means that the ASA can afford to cover some gaps that may arise if expenses are higher than anticipated or if student enrollment (and thus ASA fees) drop.
She discussed the ASA’s budget and how it’s been allotted over the school year, with the main portion of it going towards administration payments (salaries, office supplies (paper, ink, etc.) and other such admin costs).
Achebe pointed out the the ASA spends almost $49, 000 on entertainment and events, which include, but are not limited to: First and Last Class Bashes, Beers and Bands, Formal, and the end-of-the-year BBQ. She added that most of those events don’t bring in enough revenue to cover what they cost. Through ticket and beer sales, those events bring in about half of that amount.
This could be a problem as the next provincial election looms closer. The United Conservative Party (UCP) has a platform point surrounding student unionism. The way things work now, students automatically pay student union fees. What the UCP has planned is opt-in fees rather than opt-out.
Both Achebe and ASA President, Taylor Johnson, mentioned how troubling this would be for the ASA should this become a reality.
“This is incredibly troubling for us because if we lose even 20% of the student fees, that’s thousands of dollars of our budget that we would be losing,” said Johnson in an e-mail. “This would mean we would be losing services, events, and a lot more. By losing these services and events, it would be incredibly hard to get ourselves out there enough to make students want to actually opt-in. Ultimately, this could result in the [ASA] essentially falling apart.”
Roughly 80% of the ASA’s current budget is from student fees, which means the ASA is already looking for other options to pad their funding.
The Finance Committee is already looking into contacting local and Edmonton based businesses to advertise with the ASA to help cover costs and any losses they may see due to lack of fees.
Johnson and VP Life, Jennae Matzner are both on a substance review committee, which is looking at how to implement new policies at Augustana for tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol.
The current recommendations to Academic Council have been that there be:

  •  restricted use of all three on campus
  •  designated spaces for both tobacco and cannabis on campus but they will not be the same spaces
  •  some type of unenclosed shelter that could be used on campus for those who smoke
  • a “no party rule” in residences, which means that alcohol would be allowed in dorms, but no open liquor in the halls or common rooms and there would be a restricted number of people allowed to be in a room with open liquor.

Johnson noted that there would most likely be more restrictions in place to start with and the university would see how the first semester of the new regulations go. Changes would be made based on how that goes.
Johnson also discussed 3-11 feedback and the survey which will be coming out sometime in January.
For this year’s survey, Johnson requested some assistance from professors who work with surveys in their classes to ensure they cover a wider range of questions, opinions, and considerations.
For last year’s survey, Johnson and her committee put together all the questions and filed through all the responses submitted by students and presented it to faculty.
Her hope is that, as she consulted with professors to make it a stronger survey, when the results are collected and presented to faculty, they will take those responses and the feedback more seriously.
VP Academic Naomi Mahdere mentioned that the ASA will also be looking into getting the data back from the USRIs that students submit.
Although that is data the ASA should already be receiving, they have not been which means it is harder to track if professors are taking concerns seriously and if they are actually making changes to their classes.
Madhere commented that she knows change takes time, but “even though things change slowly, how can we make sure those changes are still happening?”
Putting that data together (as to what kinds of assignments are given, if the exams are take home or in the gym, lots of group work, etc.) would help students be able to make better decisions in the future when it comes to which courses they will be taking.
For those who have more opinions or suggestions, all members of the ASA welcome e-mails or comments in person.

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