As a companion to our ongoing Senate Highlights series, this week we’re launching a new feature profiling Dalhousie’s Board of Governors and some of the presentations and decisions made at its meetings.
The Board of Governors is responsible for the overall conduct, management, administration and control of the property, revenue, business and affairs of the university. It represents the interests of the university, carrying out its responsibilities through a stewardship role (delegating day-to-day management to the president and senior administration). Its membership currently includes three ex officio members (the president, chancellor and chair of Senate), eleven Order-in-Council members and additional representatives appointed by alumni, students, faculty and the Board itself.
The Board has six standing committees: Academic & Student Affairs; Capital Projects and Facilities; Community Affairs; Finance, Audit, Investment and Risk; Governance and Human Resources; and the Board Executive. While these committees meet regularly through the year, the Board as a whole meets five times a year between September and June.
Tuition and fees for 2017-18 approved
The Board voted to approve tuition and other student fees for the upcoming year. Following the recommendation of the Finance, Audit, Investment & Risk Committee, the Board approved a 3% general tuition fee increase to tuition fees for all programs (including the international differential fee).
While the Board approves the overall operating budget at its June meeting, it approves tuition and fees in April so they can be implemented for the upcoming year.
The tuition and fee increases reflect the recommendations of the university’s Budget Advisory Committee (BAC), which has spent the past several months engaging with the Dal community on its budget plan. (See Dal News stories: December 2, March 2). In a presentation to the Board, BAC Chair and Provost Carolyn Watters explained that with Dal’s expenditures set to rise 3.5%, and with only a 0.9% increase to revenues (largely the provincial government grant), the university budget would have a $10.6M gap without tuition increases or faculty/unit budget reductions. Alongside the 3% tuition increase, the BAC plan to balance the operating budget includes a 1.9% reduction to all faculty/unit budgets, which will be voted on as part of the full operating budget at June’s Board meeting.
The Board also approved 3% increases to the Facilities Renewal fee, the Student Services fee, and residence and meal plan rates. Additionally, the Board approved new and modified levies that were voted on by students in the recent DSU elections: fees in support of the Dalhousie Bike Centre, the Loaded Ladle, the Dalhousie Survivor Support Centre and the Dalhousie Agriculture Student Association Fee (the last of these applying to Ag Campus students only).
Ad Hoc Financial Planning Committee launched
During the Board meeting, Board Chair Larry Stordy introduced a motion to create an ad hoc committee of the Board of Governors focused on longer-term financial planning, which was subsequently approved by the Board. The committee will prepare a report and recommendations on the university’s strategic financial options to enable sustainable support of the university’s academic mission and strategic priorities.
“We want to take a fresh look at this,” said Stordy, “and make sure all perspectives are heard.”
Among the committee’s tasks will be to review Dal’s financial structure and practices (including all university funds); complete an environmental scan of financial metrics for Dal and other Canadian universities; review university policies related to financial matters; and review and advise on Dalhousie’s position on government support for higher education.
The committee will be chaired by Board Member Aubrey Palmeter, and include other board members to be determined (including student representation). The committee is to deliver its final report in Q1 2018.
Universities Canada Principles on Indigenous Education
In 2015, Universities Canada — the body that represents universities across the country — released its 13 principles on Indigenous education. Developed in close consultation with Indigenous communities, the principles aim to advance opportunities for Indigenous students, acknowledging the unique needs of Indigenous communities across Canada and their goals of autonomy and self-determination.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board voted to adopt these principles on the recommendation of its Academic and Student Affairs Committee as well as the Community Affairs Committee. The motion was presented to the committees by Dalhousie’s Indigenous Strategy Steering Committee, established under Strategic Priority 5.2 of the university’s Strategic Direction to develop an Indigenous Strategy for Dalhousie. The principles were previously adopted by the Dalhousie Senate on March 27.
You can review the principles at the Universities Canada website.
Agricultural Campus Master Plan and additional projects
The Board reviewed and approved the new Campus Master Plan for the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Truro, as well as funding for design work on two projects.
While Dalhousie has had a Campus Master Plan for its Halifax campuses for seven years, its development pre-dates the merger with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. For the past two years, a planning process has been underway to develop a Campus Master Plan for the Truro campus as well, one that would align the development of its physical space with both the Faculty of Agriculture’s Strategic Plan (2014-2019) as well as the university’s broader Strategic Direction (2014-2018).
The goal of the document is to guide campus development decisions as the campus and its academic programs evolve, outlining how the campus should improve and evolve over time and provide a guide to individual projects that will contribute to achieving those improvements.
One of those priority projects — a student learning commons in the MacRae Library, similar to comparable learning commons spaces in Halifax — received approval for the design phase at Tuesday’s meeting. The space, which will occupy the library’s currently vacant top floor, was identified as a top priority in the Campus Master Plan due to a deficit of student-focused space for socializing or informal learning/networking/support. Fundraising is currently underway for the project, which is budgeted at $3M and set to be completed by Spring 2018.
The Board also approved the design phase for a replacement for the Ruminant Animal Centre’s (RAC) feed barn, which was partially destroyed by a fire in August 2015. While a broader renovation project is in the planning stages, the feed barn replacement needs to move forward more quickly as temporary measures are still in place for preparing feed mixes for the animals. Most, if not all, of the costs will be covered by insurance, and the work is expected to be completed by Spring 2018.
New student Board members
The Board approved two new student members: incoming Dalhousie Student Union President Amina Abawajy and recently elected Board of Governors representative Jeremy Ryant. Abawajy, currently vice-president academic and external of the DSU, is finishing the last year of an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and International Development Studies. Ryant, a Dal Political Science graduate, is currently a first-year student in the Schulich School of Law. Abawajy’s term is for one year, while Ryant’s is for two, both terms commencing May 1, 2017. They replace outgoing student Board members Kathleen Reid (current DSU president) and Bart Soroka.
- The Board approved Dalhousie’s new policy on policies, which was previously approved by Senate on March 27. The document aims to provide clear policy framework to guide members of University administration with authority for policy development.
- The Board heard a presentation on the re-visioning of the university mace from Peter Dykhuis (director, Dalhousie Art Gallery) and Christine Macy (dean, Faculty of Architecture and Planning), co-chairs of the project committee. You can read more about this initiative in this March 7 Dal News story.
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