How can I participate?
A vital element of Simon Fraser University’s mission to be the engaged university is fostering a culture of active awareness of, participation in, and engagement with University governance. Governance refers to the structures and processes in place within an organization through which decisions are made; the organization’s strategic direction is defined and fulfilled; and the organization is held accountable.
Participation in governance at SFU is an opportunity for you to be directly involved in these decision-making, implementation, and oversight processes. Participants also stand to gain experiences that help to form important foundations that can be leveraged in their personal, academic, and professional lives, within and outside of SFU, such as:
- leadership and board experience;
- practice engaging in strategic analysis and making informed judgments;
- familiarity with the workings of SFU in general and the post-secondary education sector more broadly; and
- awareness and understanding of emergent challenges facing SFU and the sector.
Upcoming Membership Vacancies
One student who is a member of the SFSS
June 1, 2022 – May 31, 2023
One student who is a member of the GSS
June 1, 2022 – May 31, 2023
One faculty member
June 1, 2022 – May 31, 2025
When vacancies arise on the Board of Governors for its elected student, faculty, and staff positions, calls for nomination and information on the applicable election (including information on the nomination deadline, campaigning, and online voting) are circulated by the University’s Electoral Officer. Eligibility requirements are detailed here, and more information relating to the nomination and election process, and candidates (once available), can be found here.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Board of Governors at SFU?
Simon Fraser University is governed under a bicameral system, by the Board of Governors on one hand, and the Senate on the other. Each governing body is constituted under the University Act.
The Board of Governors is the governing body that is given a wide-ranging authority to manage, administer, and control the property, revenue, business and affairs of the University. Senate is responsible for the academic governance of the University.
Who sits on the Board?
The Board consists of 15 members: eight individuals appointed by the Provincial Government, the Chancellor, the President, two faculty members elected by the faculty, two students who are members of the applicable student society (one undergraduate student and one graduate student) elected by the students, and one staff member elected by the staff. The Board’s current members, and their terms of office, are listed here.
Student members of the Board hold office for a term of 1 year. After that initial year, student members may run for re-election for another 1-year term (for up to a maximum of 6 consecutive years in office).
Faculty and staff members of the Board hold office for a term of 3 years. After that initial 3-year term, faculty members may run for re-election for another 3-year term (for up to a maximum of 6 consecutive years in office).
What does the Board do?
The University Act gives the Board the wide-ranging authority to manage, administer, and control the property, revenue, business and affairs of the University. The Board is responsible for ensuring that the University’s activities and initiatives align with the University’s strategic goals; for evaluating risks faced by the University; and for providing guidance to and oversight of University management.
Given the broad authority of the Board, it makes decisions regarding a wide variety of topics (in certain cases, in consultation with or following recommendation by Senate), such as decisions with respect to:
- maintenance and construction of University buildings, structures, and other real property;
- conservation of heritage sites;
- hiring of senior administrators;
- the establishment of student funding opportunities, such as scholarships and bursaries;
- the University budget; and
- the establishment of faculties and departments.
While there are some decisions that can only be made by the Board itself, the Board also delegates certain responsibilities and the authority to make certain decisions on its behalf to the seven standing committees of the Board. These standing committees are: the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee; the Executive and Compensation Committee; the Finance and Administration Committee; the Governance and Nominating Committee; the Human Resources Committee; the Climate Action and Sustainability Committee; and the University Relations Committee. Each standing committee has a limited and specific area of responsibility.
What is expected from governors?
Generally speaking, all governors are held to the same standards, which is a standard mandated by the University Act: all governors are required to act in the best interests of the University. This standard is what is referred to as a fiduciary duty: an obligation to act in the best interests of another person or entity.
It’s important to note that this is not the same thing as representing or voting to advance the interests of a certain constituency (for example, students, faculty, or staff) at the Board table. Governors must be attentive to the fact that advocacy for a certain constituency can often conflict with a governor’s duty to act in the best interests of the University, While each governor brings their perspectives, which may be informed by their status as a student, staff member, or faculty member of the University, to the Board table, they are expected to make decisions based on their assessment of what is in the best interests of the University itself.
How much of a time commitment is required of governors?
The Board meets six times per year (generally every other month, but with back-to-back meetings in May and June, and no meetings in July or August), on Thursdays from 8 am to 12 pm. The location of Board meetings rotates among the University’s three campuses in Burnaby, Vancouver, and Surrey.
The Board’s standing committees meet during the week prior to the Board meeting; standing committee meetings are approximately one and a half to two hours long. As a governor, you will be assigned by the Chair of the Board to one or more of the standing committees of the Board. Standing committee meetings are held at the Vancouver campus.
In addition to regular meetings, Board members attend one budget information session in March (2 hours); a dedicated governance strategic session (2 hours); and an annual Board dinner in May.
Beyond attending these meetings, Board members spend time reviewing the materials they are provided with in advance of the Board and committee meetings, to ensure that they are prepared to deal with the business of those meetings. Board members may also consult with University administration as necessary and are invited to various university functions as representatives of the Board. The time required for these commitments can vary but typically members can expect to spend about four to six hours preparing for each Board meeting and their committee meeting(s).
I am a student. What can I bring to the Board, and what will I get from being a member of the Board?
When student governors are engaged in the work of the Board, they can make significant contributions by participating in discussions of important topics and sharing their unique perspectives with the other governors. If these perspectives are not shared, they cannot be taken into consideration by all of the governors when the Board makes decisions for the good of the University as a whole. The University welcomes and values the distinct points of view that student governors bring to the table.
As a student governor, you’ll gain leadership experience and strengthen your skills in strategic analysis and decision-making. You’ll obtain insight into the workings of the University that you would not otherwise have and have the opportunity to create lasting relationships with your Board colleagues and University administration. These experiences can contribute to the furthering of your academic and professional goals.
If I’ve never served on a board before, how will I know what to do?
Before you attend your first meeting of the Board, you will attend an orientation that explains how the Board functions and the context in which the Board exercises its authority. You are also welcome to attend the open session of Board meetings at any time, as they are open to the public, to get a sense of how the Board conducts its business.
After you join the Board, ongoing training opportunities will be offered to you as they become available. Less experienced governors are also encouraged to reach out to more experienced governors, and vice-versa, to develop deeper connections and create opportunities in which governors may seek advice from each other. These connections help to strengthen the Board as a whole.
Rest assured that governance in an university setting is unique, and so even governors who have served on other boards (like boards of for-profit corporations or charitable organizations) will need to develop an understanding of how the University’s Board operates and the characteristics of the post-secondary sector.