From the Boardroom: BoG endorses Indigenous Strategic Plan, approves budget

A historic endorsement, a long-awaited budget and a mini student caucus emerged at the July 27 Board of Governors meeting, held over livestream.

Here’s what you might have missed.

Board endorses Indigenous Strategic Plan

The Board finally voted to unanimously endorse the principles within the Indigenous Strategic Plan (ISP). It additionally pledged to commit to bring the plan back to the Board for ratification as new revisions arise and to write a letter to the Senates on their approach to endorsement.

Three goals have emerged as top priorities: moving research forward, Indigenizing curricula and recruiting Indigenous people.

Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot, senior advisor to the president on Indigenous affairs and professor of political science, public policy and Indigenous studies, presented the plan to the Board, noting that while the plan has been extensively delayed, much of that was not on their end.

“The ISP has already been subjected to a remarkable and unprecedented level of rigour and scrutiny at all levels, compared to other university plans. It has also suffered delays that no other plans or frameworks have experienced,” Lightfoot said, adding that the plan has been to the Board ten times.

Indigenous Engagement Committee Chair Andrea Reimer also noted the delays. “I’ve been on the Board for seven months, and at every single meeting I’ve been to, it’s been delayed,” she said.

Reimer said that some of this was due to the pandemic, but also because this plan requires “a dominant culture to … willingly give up power.”

A fight for student representation on the UNA Board

Student Governors Jeanie Malone, Max Holmes and Jassim Naqvi worked together at the meeting, twice being the only governors to vote against specific motions: approval of an agreement with the University Neighbourhood Association (UNA) and approval of the UBC budget.

The agreement in question results in five changes to the relationship between the UBC and the UNA: it changes the status of the two UBC-appointed directors to observers, references the new UNA–AMS relationship, allows UBC oversight over UNA finances and its budget, formalizes the Liaison Committee role and clarifies insurance requirements.

But conflict came over the first and second changes, which include changing the AMS-appointed director to simply an observer and various other changes to the AMS–UNA relationship.

Holmes argued that UBC was “neutral” in the negotiations and did not fight to maintain student representation on the Board.

“The UNA would have benefitted from having student representation on the Board,” he said.

The agreement ended up passing, but with the three student representatives voting against and the two faculty governors and a few others choosing to abstain.

Budget approved

After months of delays due to COVID-19, UBC has finally approved its budget for the 2020/21 fiscal year. The pandemic didn’t let the university off easy — the budget predicts that the university will run a $225-million deficit.

VP Finance and Operations Peter Smailes emphasized that this number is simply an estimate. President Santa Ono also noted that this number is fairly in line with what other post-secondary institutions are reporting.

"I want to stress these are only projections … so much of this budget is based on estimates and expectations," Smailes said. The Board will have a fuller idea of the actual deficit in September.

Provost and Vice-President Academic Andrew Szeri noted that in this year’s budget, the university is spending 37 per cent more on student financial aid than it did in the previous year due to the impact of the pandemic. The university has also budgeted $31.2 million for winter term one to cover support for online teaching.

Faculty Governor Mark Mac Lean asked how the university is budgeting to address all the commitments to anti-racism President Ono has made over the last few months.

Szeri noted that they have $1 million budgeted for the implementation of the Inclusion Action Plan. Smailes said that there will also be distributed funding for projects on anti-racism throughout departments and faculties.

“Some of the president’s announced efforts are just coming together ... particular advisory groups will help advise on expenditures, and we’ll make room in the budget for that,” Szeri said.