From the Boardroom: Governors sign provincial mandate letter, approve Workday Student funding

At its June 24 meeting, the UBC Board of Governors authorized the chair to sign a provincial mandate letter and approved an allocation of $285 million to Workday Student, among other agenda items.

In a rare move, two student representatives voted against the approval of the agenda.

Student advocates noted on Twitter and at last night’s AMS Council meeting that the Board did not have a discussion item on the return to campus — which is a problem, they say, as the next Board meeting will happen after the fall term will have started.

As for what was on the agenda, here’s what you might have missed.

Board chair to sign provincial mandate letter

The Board received a June 1 letter from the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training on the Board’s mandate that included five foundational principles the Board should be following and additional priorities.

The five foundational principles put forward by Her Honourable Anne Kang are putting people first; lasting and meaningful reconciliation; equity and anti-racism; a better future through fighting climate change; and a strong, sustainable economy that works for everyone.

As for further priorities, Kang also told the Board to make progress on a return to full on-campus learning in the fall, work with the Ministry and the community on COVID-19 economic recovery and increase access to post-secondary education.

“You will recognize that these principles are very tightly aligned with UBC’s values and strategic initiatives,” Board chair Nancy McKenzie said of the letter.

The resolution to allow McKenzie to sign the letter passed with little discussion.

$285 million big bucks approved to fund Workday Student

The student side of UBC’s major software overhaul, the Integrated Renewal Program (IRP), was granted Board 3 approval at the meeting.

Registrar Kate Ross said the current 30-year-old Student Information system (SIS) is on its last legs. The university has been exploring replacing it for over a decade now.

Director of Digital Delivery & Solutions at UBC IT Corinne Pitre-Hayes said the new system will “enable robust support of all critical student activities on current technologies, providing security and stability.”

“A reliable modern system is required to enable UBC’s academic mission,” she said. “A new system will provide dramatically improved experience for students.”

VP Finance and Operations Peter Smailes said funding would come from money that’s already been set aside, including the Trek Endowment, the Academic Excellence Fund and UBC operating funds.

Both Anna Kindler and Mark Mac Lean expressed support for the plan, but were concerned that some of the funding would come from the Academic Excellence Fund. Kindler worried that this would reduce the amount of funding available for teaching and learning priorities.

“I think … my faculty colleagues more broadly have an expectation that the promised conversations about the way the academic mission of the university is funded [will happen],” Mac Lean said. “... that’s a conversation I’m looking forward to.”

Max Holmes, who also expressed support for the motion, asked if students would be consulted during the SIS’ development.

Ross said that they have held small focus groups and that students will be hired through Co-op to help during the development, training and implementation process.

Anthonia Ogundele, one of the Board’s newest members, asked how sustainability and equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) would be included in the IRP.

In regard to EDI, Ross said that the team was working on drafting demographic questions to better understand "our student body and then be able to serve them more effectively." UBC’s Chief Information Office Jennifer Burns, speaking on the sustainability side, said that the new SIS will address the university’s power challenges in their data centre, although they still need to discuss how to measure its success.

The motion eventually passed unanimously.

"You're now at the starting blocks. So congratulations, you get to go implement," McKenzie said.