President'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 Board Chair Angie Lamarsh’s report from the meeting here, Provost and Vice-President Academic pro tem Wade Parkhouse’s latest report from Senate here, and you can view my submitted Open Board Report, along with the Open Board Reports of each Vice-President, here.

My presentation at the March 30, 2023 Board meeting included updates on SFU’s developing Indigenous Governance Framework, the internal launch of What’s Next: The SFU Strategy and progress on key searches at the university. 

Indigenous Governance Framework

Thanks to the work of the Indigenous Governance Committee, we are almost ready to share a draft Indigenous Governance Framework with internal and external Indigenous communities for feedback. As part of the framework, we are proposing the creation of an Indigenous Council that would support Reconciliation work already underway at SFU, as well as guide the creation of a new Indigenous Strategic Plan for the university. I am thrilled at the progress so far and look forward to sharing more as we begin the engagement process.

Enhancing Engagement and Transparency

The executive team is committed to enhancing transparency and engagement in decision-making at all levels of the university. In recent months, we have hosted a number of town halls and faculty meetings in order to hear from and connect with the community—including our What’s Next town hall on March 23—and will continue to do so. In addition to these new reports out of Board and Senate meetings, we are focusing on ways to enhance change management at the university in the year ahead.

Bargaining Update

Throughout 2023, SFU will be in active negotiation with each of the university’s employee groups. As part of our commitment to be transparent and provide communication about the bargaining process, we have created a central web page and will be providing regular updates to the community. We are also making progress on our commitment to becoming a Living Wage Employer and anticipate certification by the end of 2023.

Since I submitted my report, the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) has conducted a strike vote and announced a vote outcome in favour of a strike. SFU respects the rights of our members to strike and applied for mediation at the BC Labour Relations Board to move negotiations ahead productively. The mediator has assigned mediation dates through April 27, 2023. You can learn more on our website.

What’s Next: The SFU Strategy – Internal Launch

On March 8, we officially launched What’s Next: The SFU Strategy to our internal audience of students, faculty and staff. As part of next steps around the launch and implementation of the strategy, we hosted a town hall on March 23 for faculty and staff to ask questions and learn more about the plan, and we are planning a Leaders’ Forum for more than 500 leaders across SFU to discuss how the strategy will affect them and their teams and how they can implement it into their day-to-day work.

Updates on Key Searches

I am pleased that we have made progress on several key personnel searches at the university. We are in the final stages of our searches for positions including the Provost and Vice-President Academic, University Secretary and director of the Human Rights Office, and I hope we will have good news to share soon. We are also preparing to launch our search for a General Counsel. These are all critical positions for the university and I am looking forward to seeing them filled.

Trip to Singapore

Last month, I was fortunate to be invited to the Canada-in-Asia conference in Singapore—a joint effort between the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and Universities Canada. This event brought together academia and the private sector to discuss opportunities for collaboration between Canada and Asia. I participated on a panel on clean technology where I shared the cutting-edge work SFU is doing and emphasized the critical need for international collaboration and private sector partnerships as we tackle issues like climate change together. I also enjoyed meeting with our alumni in Singapore and hearing about the impact they’re making in the world.

Other Notable Discussions

2023-24 Budget and Financial Plan

At this Board meeting, Vice-President Finance and Administration Martin Pochurko and Provost and Vice-President Academic pro tem Wade Parkhouse presented the university’s 2023-24 Budget and Financial Plan to the Board. This budget moved through the formal governance processes required and was recommended for approval by the Board’s Finance & Administration Committee.

Budgeting continues to be difficult during this time of uncertainty. From inflationary pressures to the lack of support for post-secondary institutions in the recent federal budget, we are thinking very carefully about where investments need to be made in order to set us up for long-term success. 

I am proud that this budget allocates an extra $1.3M in additional supports to address student affordability challenges, as well as $1.6M in support of SFU’s commitment to becoming a living wage employer. I am also grateful to the Board for leading us in a discussion about how SFU can better support graduate students during these challenging times. The executive team has committed to returning to the Board in June with a proposal for how the budget can include further financial support for graduate students.

I believe that the 2023-24 Budget strongly demonstrates our commitment to the priorities laid out in What’s Next: The SFU Strategy and our focus on protecting the academic mission of the university. 

Joy Johnson
President & Vice-Chancellor
Simon Fraser University