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  • Should students be able to opt-out of the Athabasca University Graduate Student Association?

Should students be able to opt-out of the Athabasca University Graduate Student Association?

  • Public
(Poll closing date: 1. April 2019)
By Steve Swettenham January 16, 2019 - 12:29pm Comments (7)

Assumes current situation at Athabasca University where students are forced into the association membership when registering for a graduate course.





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Total number of votes: 3


  • I am undecided about this because of the logistics behind it. If students are able to opt out, then there should be the stipulation that they will not receive any benefits from the AUGSA. However, how do we track this? How do we prevent those that have opted out from accessing the information that the AUGSA provides? What if a student opts out because they think they don't need the AUGSA but then they realize later that they do? Can they opt back in? How would you manage that? Etcetera... 

    Dani D'Souza February 27, 2019 - 1:22pm

  • Logistics would be the same as any other paying association. You are tracked going in as you would be going out, that's the nature of databases. AUGSA information has public and private channels, just as AU has public and private webspaces. As with any democratic association, an eligible individual could opt-in. The AU database provides all the information for active and eligible membership.

    If you believe in democracy and individual rights and freedoms, then opt-out is critical to any educational association. Paradoxically, it appears that Canadian education associations are the least respectful of individual rights and freedoms. In addition, AUGSA bylaws have built in discrimination for students living outside Alberta; such a discrimination is incomprehensible for a distance education institution. I don't believe there is any danger of mass opt-outs from AUGSA. There are examples in New Zealand and other countries where student rights and freedoms are respected with opt-out, and the association membership continues.

    I welcome further questions you have on the topic.



    PS. The AUGSA does not respresent me, nor did I miss it when it did not exist at AU.

    Steve Swettenham February 28, 2019 - 12:12am

  • A side question ... what would happen if the AUGSA did not collect any money, and the administration and membership was voluntary?

    Steve Swettenham February 28, 2019 - 12:18am

  • Hi Steve

    Thanks for your note. Unfortunately I don't have the time it would take to dedicate myself to a better understanding of this topic. I agree that students should definitely have a voice and choice in all matters related to their education.

    As a side thought, what about the money that is contributed to student health and wellness? Do you think that would be impacted? Having the option to contact Homewood Health if needed is really beneficial for post-secondary students. If students are given the choice to opt-out of the AUGSA in general, how likely would it be that we could keep this service available to those students that don't opt out?

    Dani D'Souza February 28, 2019 - 12:53am

  • If an student wants to opt out of such fees as insurance, that is an individual choice. Taxing students for services they do not want is not a choice. What is deemed a beneficial externality to the Athabasca University curriculum is an individual reality. The AUGSA is not part of the curriculum, nor did I have any opportunity to opt-out. Since AUGSA does not represent me, nor did I choose to become a member, it is just another tax by Athabasca University on students. I know my $13 per credit will be much better spent on reducing the excessive tuition costs when I can opt-out, rather than giving the money to AUGSA administration. Every cent coming from me is significant, and I don't want it wasted on AUGSA services; if other students wish to be taxed on AUGSA services, that should be their choice, not enforced Athabasca University policy.

    Steve Swettenham February 28, 2019 - 2:35am

  • Hi Steve

    Thanks for your reply.

    I know you're upset. And I get that. But your reply doesn't really respond to my comments (assuming it is a reply to my comment that I posted previously). I thought that you might be interested in having a conversation and considering some thoughts and comments regarding your question of the AUGSA fees. However, your response tells me that you're just angry and that's all that matters. It's okay to be upset about this, but posting a comment like that in response to my comment doesn't really make sense. I was trying to have a conversation with you about this.

    I think there are a lot of things to consider here, even if it seems unfair to you that we pay for the AUGSA. At this time, I will be refraining from anymore discussion about this topic. Good luck with receiving your money back from the AUGSA fees. 

    Dani D'Souza February 28, 2019 - 7:44pm

  • Hi,

    I believe it takes more than emotion and motivation to resolve an issue, given there is no evidence in Canada of students being able to opt out of an institutional enforced student association. If you have such evidence of precendence then I would love to know. My comments to your response are about individual realities. In your reality, if you want those external services fantastic, but if those services are enforced then it is not a choice for the student.  I believe the focus of the matter is freedom to choose. My comments articulate freedom to choose in relation to a specific senario, rather than generalizations. I appreciate your interest in a wider conversation on services for students, however the matter of freedom to choose will always be a central concern for me.

    Do I expect any resolution? In all my years in education I have rarely witnessed leadership save for a few educators and one manager. It will take more than luck to be able to opt-out and reduce tution. In particular a Canadian precedence would be a key indicator.

    Thank you for your interest.

    Best wishes with your studies and I encourage you to join the AUGSA board to make the differences you are looking for.  I tried and failed so I invite you to go for it!



    Steve Swettenham March 1, 2019 - 3:41am

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