Chair's Report - March Board Meeting

April 06, 2023

The Board and SFU’s executive team received feedback last year through several mechanisms, including SFU: What’s Next? discussions, that there is a need for more communication from SFU’s leadership about how and why decisions get made. 

This report contains general updates and a summary of the topics discussed at Board. Items discussed at this meeting represent matters of importance at the highest level of the institution, and these reports will help provide context and clarity around the progression of major projects and decisions.

You can read the President Johnson’s report from the meeting here, and Provost and Vice-President Academic pro tem Wade Parkhouse’s latest report from Senate here.

At the March 30 Board meeting, we discussed several matters of critical importance to the university, including SFU’s budget. Here is a summary of recent news from the Board.

Welcoming Dr. Carol Herbert to the Board

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Carol Herbert as an Order-in-Council member of the Board of Governors. Carol has an extensive background in the field of medicine and headed UBC’s department of family practice from 1988-1998, after which she served as Dean of the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario from 1999-2010. She is internationally recognized for her leadership in community-based health care delivery for underserved and vulnerable populations and was recently inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. 

It is wonderful to have Carol’s insight and expertise on the Board, particularly as planning for the SFU Medical School begins in earnest this year. I look forward to working with her.

Welcoming new Board Office Staff

We are pleased to welcome Jennifer Reddington as our new Manager, Board Office Administration, and Krystel Aquino as our new Board Assistant. They have already provided an incredible amount of support to myself and the Board and I look forward to working with them. Thank you also to Fiona Wong for supporting this transition.

In addition, I would like to recognize former Board Office Manager and Board Assistant Val Rodden and Nicole Shin for their tireless work as the Board Administration team. On behalf of the Board, we extend our gratitude for their service to the university and wish them all the best.

2023-24 Budget + Student Affordability

We have had many conversations at Board about the significant challenges our community is facing due to the current inflationary environment and other macroeconomic trends.

As the cost of living continues to rise, the Board is aware that affordability is a major concern for both undergraduate and graduate students, and there have been a number of advocacy activities related to this at Board in recent months, including at this Board meeting. 

At the meeting, SFU’s executive team presented the 2023-24 Budget and Financial Plan for approval. The Board understands that the budget must balance student affordability challenges with capital needs on campus, such as critical investments in infrastructure, teaching and research. 

During our discussion on the budget, several Board members raised concerns about student affordability, particularly when it comes to graduate students at the university. The executive team was responsive to these concerns, and we had a productive conversation about the best way to move forward.

Ultimately, the 2023-24 Budget and Financial Plan was approved by the Board, with the stipulation that SFU’s executive team report back to the Board in June about mechanisms to create further financial support for graduate students and their implications on the overall budget.

We will have several challenging budget years ahead, with limited resources and many competing priorities, and I am grateful to the executive team for putting together a budget that provides a clear path forward in alignment with the university’s strategy, as well as for their commitment to addressing the issues raised by the Board.

What’s Next: The SFU Strategy

At our January Board meeting, we approved What’s Next: The SFU Strategy as the guiding strategy for the university moving forward. The Board received regular updates during the planning and engagement process and we are confident that the vision, values, purpose and priorities expressed in the strategy will drive the university forward in the years to come. 

An important part of our job as the Board is providing oversight and support as the president and executive team advance the strategy across the four priority areas. We look forward to continued engagement with the community as work advances to the implementation phase, and we are excited to see the positive benefits that the strategy will bring to the SFU community—and to the world—in the years ahead.

Collaboration with Senate

On February 6, I attended my first Senate meeting as Board Chair to thank Senators for their work, share an update from the Board and talk about some opportunities that I see for collaboration between the Board and Senate.

SFU operates under a bicameral governance system with two major governing bodies: the Senate, responsible for academic governance of the university, and the Board of Governors, responsible for the “business” of the institution, such as SFU’s property and finances.

Bicameral governance is a core tenet of our governance mandate as a university, and I am confident that increased collaboration between Board and Senate will allow us to make more strategic decisions and move forward together. In that spirit we have recently formed a Special Joint Committee with both Board and Senate representatives to review important questions regarding SFU’s Research Ethics Board, and we look forward to collaborating on other university priorities such as the medical school.

This is an exciting time for the university. I look forward to sharing more news and updates on behalf of the Board in the months ahead. I also invite the community to attend our next Board meeting, on May 25 at Burnaby Campus. More details and a full schedule of upcoming meetings and locations can be found on our website.

Angie Lamarsh
Chair, Board of Governors
Simon Fraser University