Board of Trustees in brief
Board chair Bill Young spoke about the results and the themes from the fifth annual board effectiveness survey. Based on the trustees’ assessment, progress has been made in several areas including a thorough and documented process for approving the annual operating budget and capital allocations, and ensuring the integrity of the financial information published by the university regarding its performance.
However, there is still room for improvement, according to Mr. Young. The results indicate that board meetings could be more effective and more special retreats should be scheduled as a way to improve trustees’ understanding of their role, the university’s mission and the strategic challenges and opportunities facing the post-secondary sector.
Principal Daniel Woolf addressed the recent decision by the Faculty of Arts and Science to suspend admissions to the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program for one year. He conveyed to trustees the perception of Senate that the Board’s directive for balanced budgets is causing serious deterioration of academic quality at Queen’s. The Principal added that the primary issue is that the university is spending more than it’s taking in. Principal Woolf noted that Provost Alan Harrison is building a new budget model to create long-term financial sustainability and prevent further erosion of the educational experience.
Principal Woolf said he is pleased the recently-elected Liberal minority government in Ontario will not implement across-the-board cuts to education, but he is concerned there will be no significant increases in funding. Furthermore, Queen’s and other Ontario universities are unsure how the provincial government will replace the lost revenue that results from its promised 30-per-cent tuition rebate.
He also discussed externally-focused areas of collaboration and partnership that align with trends in post-secondary education and meet the interests of the federal and provincial governments:
• Signing a memorandum of understanding with St. Lawrence College;
• Hosting his second Principal’s Community Breakfast connecting Queen’s with local business and community leaders.
• Recognizing Queen’s history of public service and national contribution by honouring alumnus Peter Milliken with the Alumni Achievement Award and former Kingston and the Islands MP and federal cabinet minister Flora MacDonald with the Agnes Benidickson Award.
Principal Woolf highlighted Queen’s continued commitment to research that improves quality of life. He touched on:
• The second annual Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research Institute forum, which attracted a large number of participants including Canada’s surgeon general.
• Political Studies professor John McGarry’s work in conflict resolution and peacekeeping, which was recently recognized with a Trudeau Fellowship.
Principal Woolf’s full report can be read online.
Provost Alan Harrison briefly explained that the four pillars of the recently-endorsed academic plan are inextricably linked to curriculum and the campus environment. The new Queen’s University Quality Assurance Processes (QUQAPs), which are now being implemented, will help align the academic plan priorities within the various programs.
He provided an update on the 2011-12 budget, noting that special payments for pension solvency are expected to be less than forecast due to the beneficial effects of pension evaluation. However, the projected $9-million in investment income from the pooled investment fund (PIF) may not be realized because of the continued uncertainty in the financial markets.
Provost Harrison indicated that the budget and planning process is on track to present a balanced 2012-13 budget for Board’s approval in May. Jo-Anne Brady, in her new role as Vice-Provost (Planning and Budgeting), is tasked with preparing a new budget model to ensure balanced and sustainable budgets beyond 2012-13.
The annual enrolment planning process is underway with faculties and schools reviewing various programs for potential expansion. Provost Harrison has also established a strategic enrolment group to inform the decision-making around enrolment.
Newly-elected rector Nick Francis attended his first Board meeting and introduced himself to trustees. He offered his reflections on the university and suggested that inclusivity of the community will help Queen’s navigate difficult times. The process for making difficult decisions at the university in the future will matter just as much as the decisions themselves, he noted.
Alma Mater Society president Morgan Campbell spoke about the new Student Life Centre management model and thanked the trustees for their belief in the students’ ability to manage the facilities. She outlined recent improvements to the John Deutsch University Centre and noted that two new businesses will open in the Queen’s Centre in March 2012. The Board later approved the leases for the businesses.
Society of Graduate and Professional Students president Jillian Burford-Grinnell said that she hopes the university will think about the needs of students when considering future BFA admission decisions.
She highlighted the new cultural engagement group, a recent initiative supported by SGPS. She noted that the SGPS has launched holiday assistance campaign to help graduate students who are parents during the holidays. The SGPS is accepting donations of cash, toys, gift cards and non-perishable food items for students with dependents.
The Board approved the appointment of external auditors KPMG for the year ending April 30, 2012.
Environmental Health and Safety Committee
The Board approved the Health and Safety Policy Statement and Environmental Management Policy Statement. Both are unchanged from the previous year.
The Board approved:
• 2012-13 residence fees with an overall increase of 4.5 per cent. Queen’s has the second highest rate for traditional room and board compared to other Canadian universities. In response to a trustee’s question, Provost Harrison said students are consulted on the fees, and feedback from students and the recent Globe and Mail survey demonstrate that students are highly satisfied with residences and believe they get fair value.
• The Nixon Field (formerly Kingston Field) project at a maximum cost of $2.3-million, subject to design and layout approval by the Campus Planning and Development Committee and an additional $400,000 in donations to cover the total cost of the project. The field over the Queen’s-KGH parking garage is scheduled to open in fall 2012.
• The Waldron Tower extension project at a maximum cost of $2.5-million. The funds will come from residence capital reserves and residence fees. The project, slated for completion in August 2012, will create 40 to 45 new residence spaces by repurposing the Quinte Thousand Island Lodge that is connected to Waldron Tower on two floors.
• An additional $800,000 for the Queen’s University Administrative Systems Replacement project. The funds will allow consultants to continue testing the new Human Resources system further before the system is launched in early 2012.
The AMS Queen’s Centre capital contribution was discussed during the in-camera session.
The Board heard that additional contributions, updated mortality tables and more precise salary projections over the next three years have put the Queen’s Pension Plan on a more sustainable footing. However, further changes will be required in the future to ensure that the plan is not an ongoing drag on the university’s operating budget.
Trustee Don Raymond, vice-chair of the Investment Committee, updated the board on the committee’s strategic review of the pooled endowment fund (PEF) and the pooled investment fund (PIF). The goal of the review, which began in late 2010, is to ensure the funds’ investments align with the financial requirements of the university. The complete results of the review will be presented to the Board at its March meeting.