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Good governance: a University Council update

Good governance: a University Council update

Queen’s University Council was established by statute in 1874 to provide a body at which matters of interest relating to the welfare of the university could be reviewed and discussed. Members (councillors) are elected by and from alumni of the university. Over time, the Council evolved into an advisory and ambassadorial body to the principal and is responsible for the election of the chancellor.

When I first ran for University Council in 2012, there were more than 200 members, including senators, trustees, and an equal number of elected alumni. Subsequent to Council’s reform in 2013, University Council took on the shape it has today with a membership consisting of the chancellor, principal, 40 elected alumni, and a representative from each of the Senate and the Queen’s University Alumni Association. The elected alumni serve terms of four years and 25 per cent of the positions turn over each year. We also continue to elect six councillor trustees to the Board of Trustees for terms of three years.

In 2019, Council’s executive committee struck a task force (with Krystyna Williamson, chair, with Michael Parsche, Kate Wilson, Colin Lynch, Tom Woodhall, and myself) to examine University Council in the 21st century. Our mandate was to consider a reorientation of Council’s work to be more valuable, to both university administrators and councillors, and determine how councillors are elected both to Council itself as well as to the six Council seats on the Board of Trustees. The task force has recommended the

  • development of a formal ambassadorial role for councillors, loosely defined as “Staying informed,” “Representing Queen’s,” and “Identifying and encouraging excellence” that would be recognized as a fundamental responsibility of councillors as they engage at some level in the promotion of the interests of Queen’s.
     
  • designation of a staff member to work with councillors, the Secretariat, and Advancement to optimize councillors’ desire to serve the university.
     
  • engagement of Advancement to share responsibility for Council by overseeing members’ ambassadorial role, the identification of potential candidates, networking, philanthropy, and Advancement-related issues. The University Secretariat will continue to oversee elections to both Council and Board, support for the appointment of the chancellor, and other governance-related work.
     
  • development of a personal engagement plan to be used by councillors to plan and record their engagement with the Queen’s community throughout their term.
     
  • review of current election models with recommendations on modifications beingpresented to the University Council AGM this November.

When asked how to characterize University Council in the 21st century and the work of the task force, Krystyna Williamson said, “Good governance occasionally requires hitting the reset button. While Council was originally established to bring potential donors into the university’s warm embrace, over time those relationships were assumed elsewhere and Council became more of an opportunity to address the alumni at large and engage them in developing responses to various challenges faced by the university. What no one at Queen’s needs is a group that meets for nothing more than the sake of tradition. Council must be positioned to provide expertise and valuable volunteer time in order to lighten the load on the institution and to assist in any practical way to enhance Queen’s reputation. I hope the Council and the administration will be bold in continuing to ask the right questions.”

Good governance occasionally requires hitting the reset button.

University Council welcomes your ideas and suggestions to utilize the talents of Council. Please consider the 2021 elections for University Council for yourself or other worthy alumni – details are on the Council website and a call for nominations will be in the spring.

Learn more about your fellow alumni on University Council.

Heather Black, Sc'80
University Councillor

ucouncil@queensu.ca

[graphic of cover of Queen's Alumni Review issue 4, 2020]