Board Meeting Synopsis for April 22, 2020

Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

The third regular meeting of the Board of Governors for the 2019-20 year was held April 22, 2020, via web conference and was chaired by Board Chair Shauneen Bruder. 

The meeting began with a welcome to Governors and a welcome to guests from Fossil Free Guelph, followed by a territorial acknowledgement offered by the Board Chair. It was noted that the open session meeting of the Board of Governors was accessible to the public through a dedicated teleconference line and that several guests had registered to join the meeting via this option.

The President offered brief oral remarks, noting several strategic items for the Board’s consideration included in the agenda. 

The Chair provided an overview of the Board’s longstanding consideration of responsible investing with respect to the University’s endowment portfolio and Don O’Leary, Vice President (Finance Administration and Risk) spoke to a proposal that the University divest from fossil fuel companies over a five year period. Following discussion of the proposal within the context of the University’s responsible investment activity, and commitment to long term University sustainability, the Board of Governors voted to divest. The original motion presented to the Board was amended through discussion, to include reference to the Board’s existing commitment to long-term carbon reduction targets and environmental, social and governance guidelines (ESG) embedded in the Board’s statement of investment beliefs; and, that a process be provided where investments that would not otherwise be in compliance may be considered if they are specifically in support of the transition to a low carbon economy and are otherwise consistent with the University’s investment beliefs. In keeping with standard practice, the Chair of each standing committee brought forward items considered by each committee for information or approval, as appropriate.

It was noted that the University’s annual budget for the following year would be presented at the Board of Governor’s June meeting, given the uncertainty of the current environment and the additional planning required to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Finance Committee Chair Nancy Brown Andison spoke to revisions to the University’s statement of investment beliefs and principles for the endowment fund, further to the Board’s consideration of responsible investing activities and the Board approved revisions to the policy. Notwithstanding the postponement of consideration of the annual budget, certain items were presented for approval in advance of the budget, in order to meet operational needs. The Board approved certain tuition and other student fees for 2020-21 and received an annual report on student financial support. In addition, the Board approved changes to the Expendable Fund Policy and approved renovations for the third floor of the University Centre.

An update was provided to the Board on the planned execution of the Internal Audit Plan considering the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work activity and social distancing requirements.

Governance & Human Resources Committee Chair, Eleanor Fritz, provided an update on several annual items including the Report on Student Sexual Violence Education, Prevention and Response Initiatives, the Board of Governor’s self-evaluation process and the President’s annual performance review process. 

A regular update was provided on the status of the transition to the University Pension Plan, Ontario. In addition, the Board approved updates to pension plan text language to reflect current collective agreements. 

The Board also received written reports for information, including reports from all standing committee chairs on recent committee activity as well as financial reports from the University of Guelph and the University of Guelph-Humber and the most recent valuations of University pension plans

The complete open session meeting package is available on the University Secretariat’s Governance Portal. The official record of the meeting is the meeting minutes, which will be available following their approval at the next regularly scheduled Board Meeting, to be held on June 16, 2020. 

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