Business-types in pinstripes no more
Queen’s alumni are known for their loyalty to the school and for cherishing fond memories of their student days – whether they graduated four or 40 years ago. However, when election time rolls around each March to choose new representatives for the Board of Trustees, the body that’s responsible for all non-academic operations of the University, the alumni level of engagement is decidedly less.
With the 2010 elections approaching, I asked some members of the Board’s Nominating Committee why they serve and why they feel it is important for alumni to choose the people who will represent them in the University’s decision-making process. Alumni are responsible for electing six Board members out of a total of 44, and only they qualify to vote in this category, explains Trustee David Whiting, Sc’65, who’s a former president of the Queen’s University Alumni Association (1993-94).
This year, alumni can vote for two trustees from a pool of 11 to three-year terms, running 2010-2013. They can also vote for up to 19 representatives out of 32 candidates to the University Council, the body that gives alumni a voice in University policy-making.
It’s a common misconception that the Board is a faceless group of business-types in pin-striped suits who are distant from the University; that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most trustees are alumni who believe in the importance of higher education and are eager to do what they can to help shape the direction of their alma mater. Many of them travel long distances at personal cost to participate in Board meetings.
If you were to attend a meeting, you’d see the depth of care that trustees have for the well being of the institution, says Whiting, who chairs the Board’s Nominating Committee. He believes strongly in the importance of higher education, and it’s apparent that his Board colleagues do, too.
“Higher education is a public good that must be nurtured and protected,” says staff Trustee Bob Burge, Registrar of the Faculty of Education, and so he feels it’s important to give back to Queen’s. “I was raised with an ethic of community service and volunteerism. I feel the need to contribute to the welfare of my work environment, and I have faith that I’m adding value for my colleagues and the students who choose to study here.”
One such student, Rector Leora Jackson, Artsci’09 MA’11, agrees. “Being an ex-officio member of the Board is one component of my job,” she says. “Being able to advocate on behalf of students and share student opinions on strategic issues for Queen’s was very appealing to me.
“Queen’s is an important place for me and for most members of the student population, and helping to shape the University of the future is one way of ensuring that these same opportunities are maintained for those who come after me.”
Although there are many channels to the Board, trustees elect only 15 trustees of the 44 positions. In addition to graduates, other constituencies who elect members are benefactors, staff, faculty, and students.
“The Nominating Committee can do a lot to increase the level of diversity of the Board, and I believe this should be a priority for us,” says Jackson.
With that goal in mind, recent searches have resulted in the development of a pool of potential candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds.
“The committee seeks people who are eager to participate in advancing the good governance of Queen’s,” says Burge.
Some Board members would like to see the Board have a higher profile in the University community, but Whiting is not among them. He’s not bothered that the Board and its work aren’t as well-known as they might be.
“It’s not really the Board’s job to get involved in the day-to-day operations of the University. Our role is one of governance,” he says.
Celia Russell is Director, University Secretariat Operations.
The 44-member (29 men, 14 women, and one vacancy) Board of Trustees, which usually meets quarterly – in March, May, October, and December – is made up of: