Board Highlights – Nov. 29, 2017

- December 8, 2017

Following each meeting of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors, Dal News highlights some of the presentations and decisions made.

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.

Presentations on innovation clusters, Dal 200, divestment

November’s Board meeting was bookended by several presentations.

Catherine Bagnell Styles, assistant vice-president of communications and marketing, shared plans for Dalhousie’s 200th anniversary in 2018. Her presentation, similar to those she delivered at the Sneak Peek events on campus in November, highlighted several of the signature events scheduled including the Bicentennial Launch to kick off the year Feb. 6 and the Great Debate on April, a research-focused event debating whether space or the ocean is truly “the final frontier.” She also shared the first three speakers in the “Year of Belonging” series: Craig Stephen Wilder (March 1), Murray Sinclair (March 9) and Buffy Sainte-Marie (April 17).

Bagnell Styles explained that the suite of activities (which also include Faculty-hosted events and community collaborations) is aligned with Dal’s strategic plan, meant to highlight its academic community and was shaped by extensive consultation across campus. To learn more, visit

Matt Hebb, assistant vice-president of government relations and economic development, discussed the proposal for an Ocean Supercluster based in Atlantic Canada. Described as “an industry-led collaboration that will accelerate the creation of sustainable value from Canada’s ocean resources,” the Ocean Supercluster was announced as one of the finalists for funding from the Government of Canada’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative at an event on campus back in October. Dalhousie is one of the research partners involved in the Ocean Supercluster proposal, as is the Dal-led Ocean Frontier Institute.

The first collaboration of its kind, the supercluster aims to give Canada a global competitive advantage in the ocean economy, enable new development and investment attraction, create highly-skilled jobs, and strengthen the ability of Canadian companies to expand and diversify. The full application for federal funding was submitted on November 24.

Finally, the Board invited a presentation from the student group Divest Dal. The group is advocating for Dalhousie to divest its holdings in publicly-traded energy and coal companies judged to hold substantial carbon assets. Divest Dal’s proposal was considered by the Board in November 2014, with the Board voting to support the recommendation of a report from its Investment Committee not to move forward with divestment. Since that point, Divest Dal has continued its lobbying efforts while the Dalhousie Senate agreed to pursue the recommendations of its own ad hoc committee on the subject through engagement with the Board.

Divest Dal was invited to speak at the meeting by Board Chair Larry Stordy, after he met with the group’s students during an eight-night campout on the Studley Quad. Divest Dal member Alex Ayton, a third-year Engineering student, delivered a 10-minute statement making the group’s case for divestment and urging the Board to bring forward a motion to divest at its next meeting.

Capital Projects & Facilities

The Board approved two motions related to capital projects & facilities.

The first is funding for upgrading and modernizing Dalhousie’s Banner system — a key tool for managing data related to students, faculty, staff, alumni and other stakeholders, and which sits at the centre of a complex network of integrated software and IT systems spanning the university’s major business units (Registrar’s Office, Human Resources, Financial Services, Advancement, Information Technology Services, to name a few). A new version of the software will require Dal to rebuild all the customizations it has developed over the past 20 years, offering an opportunity to revisit and rethink how the university wants to use Banner in the future. The project will provide reliable, modern systems and process to support the Dal community and stakeholders by improving the usability and capabilities of Banner. The Board approved one-time funding costs for the project of approximately $8 million, spread over five years, funded through an allocation from one-time sources in 2017-18 of $2M and the balance through an allocation from the operating budget and annual savings achieved in support units spread over up to seven years.

Secondly, the Board approved the preliminary budget for facilities renewal for 2018-19, consisting of projects estimated to cost more than $250K each. These are approved ahead of the upcoming fiscal year to allow preliminary design and procurement work to commence. The projects include exterior work on buildings like Shirreff Hall, Cox and Henry Hicks, a replacement of the Dalplex Fieldhouse floor, and funding for multi-year phased projects in the Collaborative Health Education Building and Dental Clinic, among several others. Dalhousie spends more than $20 million each year in facilities renewal, an important institutional priority: the university’s total deferred maintenance backlog sat at $371 million as of March 2017, with 40 per cent of campus buildings being rated in poor or very poor condition according to the Facilities Condition Index standard.

Gift Acceptance Policy

The Board approved a new Gift Acceptance Policy for the university. The first of its kind at Dal, the policy aims to formalize practices around gift acceptance to ensure they meet the university's high ethical standards and commitment to institutional autonomy and academic freedom, as well as compliance with any applicable legislation or regulation.

The item was previously brought to the Board for decision at its June 26 meeting, with the Board deciding to return the document to committee so some additional revisions could be considered. These included the adding of the Chair of Senate and a student member of the Board Community Affairs Committee to the policy’s Gift Acceptance Committee, and clarifying the application of the criteria under which the university would not accept gifts.

Senate Constitution amendments

The Board approved changes to the Senate constitution with regards to its membership, as was previously approved by Senate at its October 23 meeting. For more, see the Dal News Senate Highlights.

Approved minutes for Dalhousie Board of Governors meetings are published on DalSpace. Learn more about the Board at its website.


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