Senate Summed Up: New programs, new projections, new platforms at the September 16 meeting

On September 16, the first regular meeting of the Vancouver Senate for the 2020/21 academic year took place on Zoom.

Senators approved a new Indigenous land stewardship program, were briefed on the budget and were updated on the Integrated Renewal Program (IRP).

New program on Indigenous land stewardship

Senators approved the creation of a new program, the bachelor of Indigenous land stewardship, in the Faculty of Forestry.

The program seeks to deal with two challenges: climate change and environmental degradation, and the need for more land and resources to be managed by First Nations, as governments progress on reconciliation efforts.

“[The program] will provide students with the skills to steward complex ecosystems in very complex and challenging times,” said Robert Kozak, associate dean academic in the Faculty of Forestry.

While the program will exist under the umbrella of the Vancouver campus, it will take place on Westbank First Nation lands in what is now known as Westbank, BC.

Pending provincial approval, the program will be available for student registration by September 2021.

Senator Alex Gonzalez started brief discussion around whether the university conducted an impact study to measure what toll this would take on the community.

William Nikolakis, a lecturer in the Faculty of Forestry and an advisor to the program, replied that the Westbank First Nation had been the driving force behind the program, but agreed to send Gonzalez documents on the potential impact this would have on the nation.

A decreasing deficit

VP Finance & Operations Peter Smailes presented the July budget accepted by the Board of Governors and provided updates as to where he sees budget projections heading now in September.

“UBC is a financially robust institution and we came into this crisis in good financial shape with strong liquidity,” Smailes said.

The original projected deficit from July was $225 million, but Smailes suggested that this was a conservative estimate.

He said that the deficit will likely be closer to $175 million, but he said he can’t provide more definite numbers until the end of September when the add/drop date passes.

Smailes said that by October or November 2020, the university will have confirmation of tuition and ancillary revenues for winter term one.

Smailes said a set of principles guides the university’s financial plans, but focused on two: ”supporting the long term health and well-being of students, faculty and staff above all other considerations and shifting resources to continue to advance the academic mission,” he said.

After a request from Senator Paul Harrison, President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono said he would provide regular updates on budget changes to the Senate.

November launch set for Workday HR, Finance

New updates on the university's IRP closed out the night.

A project that began in December 2018, the university has partnered with software company Workday to replace old HR and finance systems, as well as replace the Student Information System that is tied to the Faculty and Student Service Centres.

Chris Mercer, IRP program director, said that the new finance system through Workday will allow the university to move from a paper-based process “to a completely paperless process,” as well as to see where expense approval is at “every step of the process.”

The new HR system also results in a full transfer online, moving away from a current system that requires paper and manual processing.

Workday HR and Finance are expected to go live on November 2, 2020, but Workday Student will be launched separately at a later date. In a presentation, AVP Enrolment Services and Registrar Kate Ross said UBC expects 2023/24 to be the earliest that Workday Student will launch.

“UBC will be one of the first universities of our size and complexity to implement this platform,” Ross said to Senate.