I am deeply honored by the news that the faculty at UBC have re-elected me to represent them on the Board of Governors for another 3-year term. I pledge again to continue my engagement with the pertinent issues, to support the Administration when I believe it to be on the right path, and to speak up if not.
The upcoming period will present many challenges, some specific to UBC, while others are more global.
The Land Use Plan and the future of Transit, of course, but also the university’s status as a “Government Reporting Entity”, its financial position in turbulent markets, the unrelenting pace of its capital projects, and our ability and willingness to incur more debt, will all be high on the Board’s agenda.
More global are the issues of internationalization of, and diversity within, Canadian campuses. Understanding these issues is key to their future. They are already high on the President’s priorities, but Maclean’s ‘Too Asian?’ article has increased the level of urgency, and UBC needs to be more front and centre in this debate.
The Browne report will undoubtedly start having an impact on policy makers and anyone thinking about, and planning for, a more sustainable post-secondary education system. We need to be ready and start developing our own thinking on the matter.
Federal and provincial funding for capital projects on campuses is expected to slow down to a trickle. The only remaining source may be the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Boards are well positioned to evaluate the infrastructure needs of Canadian campuses, and should call for a major re-assessement of the CFI mandate and of its role and capacity in addressing these needs.
University Boards will have to pay more attention to research and to its funding. The latter is becoming a substantial component of “operating” budgets. Though not under the direct control of University administrations, these funds now support thousands of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and are used to operate hundreds of research laboratories. Board members are called upon to use their influence with both levels of governments and the private sector, to explain the importance of such funding for the future of the country.
The various versions of the so-called “Innovation Agenda” are constantly questioning and redefining the role of our universities. With their unique mix of expertise and perspectives, University Boards are well positioned to enter the fray and to start contributing to the national debate.
I believe that issues of free speech and academic freedoms will again take centre stage, courtesy of the various wars around the globe, their nature, and of course the wikileaks phenomenon. Vigilance is of the essence.
As the recent embarrassing tribulations within the Alma Mater Society indicate, even our most Western and Pacific-oriented universities are not immune from the global reach of the Middle East conflict and its minefields. The deliberations of the CPCCA (Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism) and their potential impact on Canadian campuses are not to be underestimated. The incredible attention that a Master’s thesis at the University of Toronto is getting is an eye-opener and some reactions should be ringing a few alarm bells on our campuses.
The Board of Governors has a role in all these defining issues, and for that we need to continue developing and implementing appropriate mechanisms for Governors to contribute in a substantial way.
As I had mentioned before, I have advocated for, and contributed to, a more pro-active role for the Board through a series of working sessions in which Governors could provide substantial input towards long-term strategic planning. They have been useful and I believe they should continue.
Governors are equally responsible and accountable for the Board’s decisions and actions. For that, they all need to be “in the same loop”, equally and uniformly entrusted, informed and empowered. I will therefore continue my quest for more accountability, transparency and inclusion.
I am hoping that this blog will allow me to inform, but also to seek information from the faculty and other UBC stakeholders on all issues pertaining to the well being of this university.
I urge those interested to either bookmark it or to subscribe. Contributions and comments will be welcome. We surely need all the help we can get!