The University of Victoria Board of Governors met on Sept. 30 to discuss an array of investment considerations, including updates on the divestment requests and the recent advancements in community engagement at the University of Victoria.
Order-in-council appointee Michael Kennedy opened the meeting with a summary from Operations and Facilities, touching on the condition of UVic facilities and risks surrounding older campus buildings. He also delved into academic staffing, recruitment, and vacancies, reporting that, contrary to demographic trends, UVic faculty that are eligible to retire are keeping their posts.
Kennedy also affirmed that a Campus Plan committee will be established and draft a new Campus Plan over the fall, spring, and early part of the summer next year. The approval date is set for late next year.
The Strategic Research Planning Process is also expected to be in place in a year, meant to assess the internal and external research environment of the University of Victoria. According to the board, this plan will be responsive and satisfy the spirit of accountability issues and the research budget.
Lindsay LeBlanc, speaking for the Finance Committee, revealed that unless there are significant changes to the budget, UVic departments will not be asked to make across-the-board reductions. According to LeBlanc, a new budget will be drafted in November, with the final budget framework appearing in March.
LeBlanc acknowledged the extensive discussion on fossil fuel divestment, and admitted that it is a complicated and important issue. When a number of groups, including Divest UVic, approached the university last spring about the issue, the board felt that it was not in a position to divest.
The board will remain engaged and received a comprehensive report on the issue on Sept. 29th, which had updated information from investment managers; however, since the divestment of a market of this scale is too large not to have negative impacts on the performance of the university, the foundation will not divest at this time, but supports UVic’s decision to discuss alternative and sustainable investment options.
The meeting concluded on an uplifting note regarding UVic’s community engagement activities. In response to last year’s assessment, which determined a need to identify a community relationship strategy for the university, UVic has resolved to strengthen community engagement. According to Leslie Brown, Special Advisor to the Provost on Community-University Engagement, the university is known nationally and internationally for being an engaged university and UVic was selected to be on each of the four committees that the Governor General has spearheaded to deal with community engagement.
The UVic president, Jamie Cassels, concluded the meeting with an overview of the university’s involvement on provincial and federal levels. Cassels touched on UVic’s recent involvement with the Research Universities Council (RUCBC) and an upcoming meeting with the Deputy Minister of Advanced Education. He also announced that that the university has successfully acquired funding for a further three years of Ocean Networks Canada research, with the goal of immediately considering a sustainability plan.