U of S to have majority on Board of Governors
By Colleen MacPherson
A recent announcement that the provincial government is reducing by one the number of members it appoints to the U of S Board of Governors means university-appointed members will now make up the majority.
University Secretary Lea Pennock said there is currently one vacancy on what has been a 12-person board. The 11 serving members include five government appointees. By leaving the 12th seat vacant, the University appointees make up the majority on the board, she said, “so this won’t affect us in terms of anybody being asked to leave”.
The change will affect both the U of S and the U of R.
Pennock pointed out that a protocol adopted in 1999 requires the government and University to jointly compile the list of candidates for government-appointed positions on the board. That protocol is still in place.
The change was prompted by new accounting recommendations issued by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants for the public sector in Canada. Provincial Auditor Fred Wendel explained that in his opinion, those changes, which take effect in 2006, will require that the operations of “all organizations that the government controls or has significant influence over” be included in the provincial Summary Financial Statement. That statement includes, among others, Crown corporations, health regions and provincial departments.
“For the University, the legislation was such that the government had enough members that it had the ability to control the board if it chose to,” said Wendel, meaning the University should be included in the comprehensive provincial financial statement. “That would have been our opinion about how accounting should be going into the future.”
Wendel said he met with the University board some months ago to explain his recommendation, adding the recent announcement is strictly “a government policy decision”.
In a Sept. 23 news release, Learning Minister Andrew Thompson said legislation will be introduced this fall to make the reduction of government-appointed members official, and added that the change recognizes that “universities are institutions separate from government”.
“There is the sense that the University really shouldn’t be dominated by government and this (change) ensures universities have autonomy,” said Pennock. “It’s important they maintain the autonomy from government they need in order to operate. That’s a strong principle enjoyed by universities” that sets them apart from other educational institutions, and one that “is particularly important for academic freedom”.
Pennock said the government legislation will require a review of the University of Saskatchewan Act which states the board shall have 12 members.
“... a place for wise decisions”
U of S Board of Governors Chair Dallas Howe made the following comments during the inaugural Sept. 30 meeting of the Board in the new boardroom in the recently reopened College Building:
I am not one for long speeches but I would like to make some remarks on this historic occasion.
For each of us, witnessing the rescue of this building and the magnificent restoration serves as a great lesson on the importance of right choices, decisions and pathways. Without the vision, hard work and tenacity of our president and management with the support of the board and many others, we and future boards would never be sitting here and the face of the campus would have a much different appearance.
Also when we talk about big picture strategic planning, I always raise how boards of the future will look back on our period of service and assess the decisions made. Hopefully they will say this management embraced the future and were audacious enough to decide to build a central light source but had the balance, perspective and common sense to respect, retain and rejuvenate this important part of this universities heritage too.
Finally I would like to share a story with you. Several years ago we were meeting with some aboriginal chiefs on a joint venture. We finished talking and one of the chiefs asked to see my office. I was a little taken aback but we went in and he walked around the room, paused and then said “I have a good feeling about this space. I feel wise decisions could be made here.” I have never forgotten his way of doing due diligence, coming from a different culture, and the importance he placed on the influence of our surroundings. I am certain this space will have a positive influence on our decisions.
It’s too early in the day to make a toast but I would make this wish. May this space be a place where wise decisions are made.