Board of Governors Appointment Protocol

The University of Guelph’s Board of Governors is committed to achieving a membership that has a strong balance of skills and experiences needed to advance the University’s mission and a diversity of human qualities and characteristics.

Diversity is a social and economic imperative, and the Board believes Governors and Trustees should reflect the diversity of the communities the University serves.

The Board is committed to developing and implementing strategies to strengthen diversity and inclusiveness among its members. These strategies will address both the recruitment of new members and succession planning for leadership roles.  It also aspires to be a leader within the University community and the province’s universities in cultivating diversity among its members.


The University of Guelph was established by The University of Guelph Act, 1964.   The University functions with a bicameral governance structure. The Act sets out governance responsibilities of the Board of Governors and the Senate. The Board of Governors is responsible to oversee the government, conduct, management and control of the University and its property, revenues, expenditures, business and affairs. The Board is vested with all powers necessary or convenient to perform its duties and achieve the objectives and purposes of the University.

The Act prescribes that there be up to 24 Board members.[1] The Board conducts its business through standing committees, including a Board of Trustees focused on the oversight of the University of Guelph Heritage Trust.  Some of these committees have decision-making authority delegated to them by the Board and all have responsibility for reporting on their activities to the Board of Governors and, as appropriate, bringing forward recommendations for decision by the full Board at regularly scheduled meetings. 

The University of Guelph has achieved prominence in Canada and around the world as a research-intensive and learner-centred university. Approximately 17,500 full-time undergraduate and graduate students attend the University of Guelph’s main campus pursuing 13 undergraduate and 53 graduate degree programs housed within its seven colleges. A further 2,000 full-time students participate in degree programs at the University of Guelph-Humber located in north Toronto.  Approximately 670 full- and part-time student enrolments are registered in degree and diploma programs, including those at the regional campuses in Ridgetown, Kemptville and Alfred.  With more than 850 full-time faculty and approximately 2,000 full-time staff, Guelph's annual operating budget exceeds $560 million.

The purpose of this protocol is to express the commitment of the Board of Governors of the University of Guelph to achieving Board membership that is both balanced and diverse, incorporating a strong balance of skills and experiences needed to advance the University’s mission and diversity. Diversity in this context refers to the presence of a wide range of human qualities and characteristics. The dimensions of diversity include (but are not limited to) ethnicity, race, colour, age, gender, and sexual orientation.[2]

The Board aspires to provide leadership for diversity integration throughout the entire organization, beginning with Governors and Trustees.  It wishes to contribute to the University of Guelph being the institution of choice for recruiting and retaining leadership talent among governance volunteers, students, faculty and staff, leveraging diversity to benefit the entire university community and those it serves.  Studies demonstrate the value of diversity to organizations.  The Conference Board of Canada has noted that, “… Diverse leaders bring added benefits and unique capacities that, when realized, add significant value in both the public and private spheres.”[3]  Its report highlighted five of the most important benefits of diverse leadership:

  • improved financial and organizational performance;
  • increased capacity to link with new global and domestic markets;
  • expanded access to global and domestic talent pools;
  • enhanced innovation and creativity; and
  • strengthened social cohesion and social capital

With this appreciation for the economic and social imperative of diversity, the Board is committed to formalizing strategies which will improve its capacity to strengthen diversity and inclusivity among its membership and to promote these objectives throughout the University of Guelph. 

Cultivating Balance and Diversity in Governance Membership

Communities Served by the University

The Board of Governors believes that the University’s Governor and Trustee community should be representative of the communities it serves.

While many applicants to the University of Guelph are from its surrounding region and the Greater Toronto area, well over half are fairly evenly distributed across the rest of Ontario. Geographically, therefore, the University's student recruitment area is province-wide and extends across the country and throughout the world to include students from a wide-range of countries.   Faculty recruitment is equally wide-reaching and, increasingly, global in scope. 

Through its teaching and research activities, its alumni, and its partnerships with external organizations and groups in the pursuit of its academic mission, the University of Guelph serves numerous sectors and constituencies, including agriculture, business, labour, the arts, small business, and the public sector.  Identification of candidates for Governor and Trustee is also linked to areas aligned with the University’s strategic research and teaching directions including, for example, health, food and well-being, environmental impact and risk, global engagement and internationalism, cultural change and continuity, and innovation in teaching and learning.

Appointments to the Board

The University's over-riding consideration in identifying and confirming individuals to serve as Governors and Trustees is merit and experience in relation to the governance needs of the University. All candidates must possess the qualifications, experience and commitment required to govern an institution of the size, complexity and reputation of the University of Guelph and should reflect the diversity of the communities served by the University.  

Roles and Responsibilities of Governors and Trustees and Related Skill Requirements

All individuals appointed to the Board of Governors are required to perform the duties assigned in the University of Guelph Act, 1964, which assigns to the Board responsibility for "...the University and its property, revenues, expenditures, business and affairs ... including the responsibility to appoint and remove the President, Vice-Presidents, heads of faculties and schools, and senior administrative officers."

The Board of Governors General Bylaws, the terms of reference for standing committees and Board statements concerning the roles and responsibilities of Governors and Trustees provide more precise information on the responsibilities of its members.

Informed by these governance requirements and referencing the key issues and areas of focus current and emerging for the University’s governance, the Board of Governors has developed a skills matrix for both Governors and Trustees.   The combined skills, knowledge and experience necessary to govern the institution are given expression in these documents and help to illuminate any skill requirements of Governors and Trustees as vacancies occur. 

Achieving Balance and Diversity Among Governors and Trustees

Some members of the Board are appointed following a process of election.  These are the undergraduate and graduate student members, the staff members and the faculty members. 

The Board is committed to support of election processes which are clear, transparent and fair to all participants.  It supports processes that will effectively publicize opportunities for nomination and election for appointment to the Board of Governor among eligible members of the University community. 

Seeking and responding to input from community stakeholders through the work of its Governance Committee, it will pursue continuous improvement to its policies, processes, communications and outreach programs to engage the interest and participation of individuals who bring valuable skills to governance of the University.  Particular attention will be given to measures that can cultivate and support diversity among elected members.  Skilled candidates will be sought including those who reflect a gender balance and representation from ethno-racial communities, francophones, First Nations people, and persons with disabilities. 

For non-elected governance appointments, the Governance Committee of the Board takes responsibility on behalf of the Board for monitoring the Board’s membership skill requirements, identifying potential candidates in relation to these requirements and recruiting individuals to recommend for appointment as Governors or Trustees.  The Committee is also responsible for succession planning in terms of Governor and Trustee membership and in relation to the various governance leadership roles (e.g., Chair, Vice-Chair(s), Standing Committee Chair(s)).

The Governance Committee reviews all nominations submitted to the Board of Governors.  Candidates who are identified as meeting the immediate membership needs of the Board, including balance and diversity, are recommended to the Board of Governors after ascertaining whether the individual is willing to serve.   To avoid disappointment and/or embarrassment for nominees and for the University, the process of building the candidate pool and assessing candidates in relation to the Board’s requirements is confidential.  The names of potential candidates are kept on file for a minimum of three years following nomination.

Each year, the Governance Committee considers the governance leadership and committee membership requirements.  Guided by Board bylaws, policies, role and responsibility statements, committee terms of reference and skill matrices and considering succession planning, the Committee prepares recommendations for consideration of the Board in regard to Chair, Vice-Chair, Standing Committee Chair and Committee Member appointments.   Recommended appointments to these specific roles and committee assignments will reflect the Board’s balance and diversity goals.  Particular attention will be given to the identification of leadership roles for Governors and Trustees who reflect a gender balance and representation from ethno-racial communities, francophones, First Nations people, and persons with disabilities.

In fulfilling this role, the Governance Committee will develop and implement strategies that allow it to fulfill the Board’s aspirations in relation to balance and diversity.  These strategies will address both the recruitment of new members and succession planning for leadership roles.  The Committee will provide a report to the Board of Governors, at least once annually, identifying these strategies, reviewing their implementation, and assessing the status of balance and diversity among Governors and Trustees.

These strategies will include, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Regular public invitations to members of the University community, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, Governors and Trustees, to provide nominations of potential candidates, particularly those who would help meet the Board’s balance and diversity objectives
  2. Invitations to representatives of institutional partner organizations and other external organizations and constituencies to provide suggestions of potential candidates, including those who would help meet the Board’s balance and diversity objectives
  3. Invitations to members of the University community who work closely with local community groups (e.g., Chamber of Commerce, United Way, hospitals, school boards) and other organizations representing the interests of designated groups who might be willing to provide nominations of potential candidates particularly those who would help meet the Board’s balance and diversity objectives   
  4. Development of contacts with provincial and/or national level diversity organizations that are well-positioned to advise on potential candidates and/or on strategies to enhance outreach strategies to identify and recruit candidates who can advance the Board’s balance and diversity objectives

[1] There are a total of 24 seats on the University of Guelph Board. Of those, eight seats are filled through internal election (3 faculty. 3 students, 2 staff). Four more seats are filled through government appointment.  The President and Chancellor are ex-officio members. The ten remaining seats are filled by external Board appointees (3 must be alumni) who are approved by the Board of Governors on the recommendation of the Membership and Governance Committee.

[2] Conference Board of Canada report – November 2008

[3] Conference Board of Canada, November 2008

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