May 18, 2007
The University’s Board of Governors has decided to take a number of steps, including meeting with the public once a year, to improve the transparency of its activities.
At its meeting May 8, the board voted to meet in open session in conjunction with its June meeting to give a report to the University community and allow for questions about its activities. According to University Secretary Lea Pennock, this is a direction the board has been pursuing for some time.
“Everybody around the table was very pleased about this. June was chosen because, although the financial statements won’t be out yet, it makes a lot of sense in terms of the rhythm of the academic year.”
The U of S board is unusual among Canadian universities in that its meetings are held entirely in camera, or in private, and minutes are not made public. In fact, a 1959 decision by the board restricts publication of minutes until 10 years have passed. Pennock said board members have been closely examining transparency and accountability issues as a lead-up to the recent decision.
The open meeting will likely include a presentation by the chair of the governance committee about the board and how it works, said Pennock. Audience members will then have the opportunity to ask questions. It is expected the June 22 meeting will last about one hour. The location and time will be announced. Media will be allowed to attend.
The board also decided May 8 to publish on its website a summary of the information received and decisions made at its meetings, although Pennock pointed out limits will be placed on publication for reasons of confidentiality.
There will also be provision at each meeting for representatives of “significant stakeholder groups” like students, faculty and staff, to address the board “on topics which relate to the board’s mandate.” Pennock said this will be a standing agenda item but discussion will be limited to items relevant to board activities.
“We see this as providing an opportunity for our stakeholders who have something they want to ask the board about, or tell the board about, to send a representative. But we’re asking people to let us know in advance if they want to come and we want to include a briefing to board members in advance of the meeting.”
The length of board agendas may require limiting both the number of presentations and their length, Pennock said.