Board chairperson Nancy Hopkins began the meeting by acknowledging the low turnout and attributing it to the snowstorm. It was also the only public meeting the board will hold until next spring, and although this has been challenged at some institutions like the University of Regina, Hopkins maintains that it’s necessary for “trust, respect and confidence” between board members.
After a whirlwind day-and-a-half of meetings, the board was able to announce that it had unanimously approved the university’s third integrated plan, titled “Promise and Potential.” University Council also unanimously approved the plan this week.
Promise and Potential outlines four areas of improvement and focus for the university: knowledge creation; aboriginal engagement; culture and community; and innovation in academic programs and services.
“University plans allow us to do three things,” said outgoing university president Peter MacKinnon. “They allow us to identify goals and priorities; they allow us to prepare and align budgets; and they allow us to take a multi-year perspective.”
University Vice-President Academic and Provost Brett Fairbairn rolled out the plan, saying he was “delighted by the unanimous support this plan has received from the board.”
The plan, which will be enacted between now and 2016, outlines specific targets to meet in each category. For the most part, the plan represents a continuation of the policies that have guided the university through the last two plans, such as a focus on scientific research and on increasing the presence and inclusion of aboriginal students on campus.
Success in aboriginal engagement will be measured by increasing aboriginal student retention by 10 per cent for first- and second-year direct-entry students, and being “on track to achieving the goal of aboriginal enrolment at 15 per cent of total enrolment by 2020.”
“This plan means society will be better served by the university, in Saskatchewan and far beyond,” Fairbairn said.
But the meeting was not organized solely to announce the third integrated plan. Board member Susan Milburn discussed “risk as an element of planning,” and Hopkins delivered an address on the board’s role in planning for the university.
Fairbairn also outlined a number of “budget pressures” the university will be dealing with in the coming years.
“One of those pressures is created by our highly competitive hiring strategy. Another pressure has to do with ongoing liabilities relating to university’s pension funds. And the third pressure is the serious toll of accumulated deferred maintenance on buildings and infrastructure.
“We can see that over the next four years, if we took no action, those kinds of pressures would cause our expenditures to grow more quickly than our revenues. That’s not going to happen, of course, because we’re not going to let it happen.”
The university has already begun dealing with the backlog of building maintenance through its RenewUS campaign.
Photo: Margie de Jager