Landing : Athabascau University

Taxation without Representation (AUSU)

Note: This article was submitted to The Voice Magazine at Athabasca. Since Karl Low's article It's All About the Benjamins was published AUSU Council has required strict fact checking and a neutral tone on all articles relating to Council. Needless to say the AUSU office felt the following article didn't meet their requirments. To be clear this is my personal account of the May 13th council meeting and the AGM including my feelings and thoughts on AUSU. 

I’ve been travelling quite a bit over the last year during my studies at Athabasca. I’ve now found myself in the remote wilderness of Alaska. I try to engage in the culture of each region I travel to. One thing almost all Alaskans (from Athabaskan Natives, those from the lower 48, and city dwellers born in Anchorage) have in common is a deep respect for personal freedom.

On my first night in Alaska May 13th I found myself in a hostel room sitting in on a public AUSU council meeting. One of the things that struck me at the council meeting was the pleasure that council members took in ‘muting’ non-council members. Despite a public outcry against many of the decisions made by council they refused to give ordinary students like myself even 10 minutes to have our voices heard.

Silencing students seems to be a re-occurring theme for council. It was less than a month before that when writers at The Voice Magazine had their articles mysteriously disappear from the web. These are the kind of moves I’d expect from a totalitarian government but not from a student union. What alarms me most about AUSU’s machiavellian culture is the fact that student government is a training ground for those who would get involved in provincial and federal politics.

It was no surprise that when I asked for The Voice Editor Karl Low to speak at the AGM Council President Shawna Wasylyshyn responded with an aggressive “NO”. Yet almost an hour later students spoke up forcing the issue. What’s more is that students put forth a motion declaring that Shawna Wasylyshyn, Corrina Green, and Jason Nixon had all broken specific bylaws.

It was pointed out to council that bylaw 4.6.1 states:

Membership in the Association shall cease upon: (a) a Member failing to comply with these Bylaws;

The motion seemed to infuriate those on council. Without legal ground to stand on they simply kept saying motions made by students at an AGM are non-binding. What council is saying is that students have no real say whatsoever. In the corporate world the AGM is the time shareholders have to fire executive management and company directors, but not at AUSU. If students have no say even at an AGM how can council even pretend to represent us? What's more is the meeting minutes never made any reference to 4.6.1.

Despite Council re-scheduling and failing to send out proper notice of the AGM students showed up and made it clear that current council members don’t represent them. What we have here is a small elite gaming a political system for their own gain. Taxation (student fees) without representation never ends well.

To save the credibility of AUSU as a whole the offending members must be expelled from the union as stated by bylaw 4.6.1.

Furthermore I’d like to see steps taken to improve transparency, dialogue, and accountability between council and the students they represent. Here are a few practical things council can do to improve:

  1. Provide up to 15 minutes where students not on council can speak about any issues they feel are important at public council meetings.
  2. Increase the autonomy of The Voice magazine.
  3. Lower council wages to be more in line with what an average student makes. According to an article by Metro News student executive wages at other Alberta schools range from $35,947-$39,498 compared to the $49,851.23 made by AUSU President.


  • Why is this not an acceptable article?  Yes, it's critical of council but students have a right to criticize their representatives.  It's not hostile.  Anyway, if others disagree they have a right to that too, but it's okay to start the dicusssion.  Isn't this the kind of opinion piece that newspapers are supposed to print?  It's time AUSU follow through with a promise from several years ago to allow the Voice to become separate from AUSU. The Voice has been savings funds for this for years anyway.  Students should ask AUSU to start the process of allowing the Voice to become independent with its own small board to oversee the editor and be in charge of direction, editorial oversight, and the hiring and assessment of Voice staff. 

    Tamra Ross May 29, 2015 - 5:31pm

  • What bothers me is that they've now directly refused their own students asking them who it is that made the legal threat against AUSU and The Voice that was so bad it required the whole issue be taken down.  They said it wouldn't be beneficial to AUSU if people knew who made the threat, kind of narrows the field as to who might want information about their wage increase hidden during the election campaign.

    - Anon

    Anonymous June 1, 2015 - 9:25am

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