Meeting offered presentations on Canada Research Chairs and the Victoria Forum, but no guarantee of a Board of Governors vote on divestment
On Jan. 10, the first UVic Senate meeting of the decade began in solemnity. Before commencing official Senate business, UVic President Jamie Cassels acknowledged the tragic death of UVic student Roja Omidbakhsh who was onboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down near Tehran.
Cassels began his remarks as chair by wishing everyone a happy new year. He welcomed and introduced two new members of the Senate, Peter Loock, UVic’s new Dean of Science, and Allanna Lindgren, acting Dean of Fine Arts. Cassels also noted that Carmen Charette, the outgoing Vice President of External Relations, will finish her term at the end of January and will immediately be replaced by Chris Horbachewski. Horbachewski comes to UVic from the University of Lethbridge.
The president then addressed UVic’s approach to responsible investment.
“I can report that since [the last meeting] we’ve been working on options for the [Board of Governors] to consider,” said Cassels. “The board is considering options for its short-term investment policy. These are options that do put responding to the climate crisis at the forefront of decision making.”
On-campus group Divest UVic has made responsible investing and divestment from fossil fuels a paramount issue for the university administration since the group’s resurgence last year, routinely protesting at Board of Governors meetings and, on several occasions, blockading the Michael Williams Building, which contains the office of university executives and administrative staff.
“Hopefully the board will be in a position to make decisions on that policy at its next meeting at the end of the month,” said Cassels.
When the Board of Governors will vote on divestment is an ongoing concern on campus, as the vote was postponed at the board’s Nov. 26 meeting, with no guarantee that a vote will occur in January.
Cassels then detailed honours recently received by UVic faculty and students. Professor Emeritus of Indigenous Education Lorna Williams was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her work in Indigenous research, reconciliation, and language revitalization.
The Senate then moved on to the scheduled motions.
Vice President Research Lisa Kalynchuk presented a report on research priorities and Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP). The program is central to a national strategy to encourage and facilitate research and development in Canada. There are 2 285 research professorships — research chairs — in eligible Canadian universities.
Regarding Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Requirements for CRCs, Kalynchuk says that UVic is in a strong position in terms of current targets, and needs to plan to maintain that position in the future.
In an update on UVic’s Internal Research and Creative Project Grants, Kalynchuk said that the university has expanded both the scope of support available and the budget.
Kalynchuk finished her report by saying that UVic students should be aware of opportunities at the Quantum Algorithms Institute at Simon Fraser University. This new provincial government initiative focuses on quantum science, and the province wants it up and running by March.
“The focus here is on creating talent in British Columbia and keeping that talent in British Columbia,” Kalynchuk said. Much of the $17 million from the provincial government will be directed towards scholarships and graduate student funding.
The last item on the agenda is a presentation on the Victoria Forum by Dr. Saul Klein, Chair of the Victoria Forum and Dean of the Gustavson School of Business. The forum brings together participants from various levels of government, business, academia, and civil society. The goal is to facilitate evidence-based conversation leading to new ideas and solutions to contemporary challenges.
Klein says that the Victoria Forum wants to identify how different UVic faculties might want to be involved with the forum.
One Senator asked a question about student involvement in planning the Victoria Forum and associated events. Klein says that students have not been involved in the organizational phase so far, but the idea is to have student involvement in the forum itself.
In terms of how the forum will operate, Klein hopes to have high-profile speakers whose presentations will be open to all, as well as workshops where delegates to the forum can participate in the discussions.
With wishes for a happy weekend for everyone from Cassels, the Senate meeting concluded.