The Board of Trustees approved reports and policies on Friday.
Queen’s Board of Trustees convened in Richardson Hall for their first meeting of the academic year on Sept. 29 to discuss budget concerns and ongoing financial instability of graduate students.
The Board of Trustees commended everyone who helped Queen’s rank third in the world in The Times Higher Education Impact Ranking.
“We cannot reinforce enough how much work this took and what this says about the Queen’s story,” Alison Holt, board member, said at the meeting.
Agenda items included approval of consolidated financial reports, approval of updates to the gift giving and harassment and discrimination policies, and a presentation on the annual Sexual Violence Report.
Consolidated Financial Report
Financial statements showed Queen’s operating budget closed the 2023 fiscal year in a $50.5 million deficit. The operating budget covers teaching and administrative activities and covers 65 per cent of the University’s revenue.
Queen’s investment portfolio rebounded to $84.4 million from $12.8 million in 2021-22. The return on investments put the University in an overall surplus of $15.6 million.
“We face challenges at the University, but the budget is just one of them,” Principal Patrick Deane said in his verbal report to the Board of Trustees.
The operating budget is recorded separately from other financial information and is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees.
The Audit and Risk Committee presented its report and the audited consolidated financial statements for the year were approved.
READ MORE: Queen’s projects a $62.8 million deficit
Board member Dean McCann stressed the importance of disseminating accurate information about the budget to the statement’s users. McCann believes people may find it difficult to decipher financial statements, leading to the perception the University’s business is underwater or unclear.
“How do we bridge the gap between telling the right story to the reader of the budget and getting the right message out there for the public users of the statement?” McCann said.
Heather Woermke, associate vice-principal (finance and administration) and Robert Clayton from external auditor KPMG hosted a half-hour session during the meeting to teach members how to read and interpret financial statements.
Clayton explained endowment funds received by the University can’t be used easily. Queen’s is required to hold the funds in accordance with the wishes of the individuals who provided them.
As of now, Principal Deane is awaiting the report from the Blue-Ribbon Panel, a group created by the provincial government addressing the sustainability of the higher education sector, to make future budgetary decisions.
Deane expressed concerns regarding ongoing geopolitical tensions between Canada and India, and how they have affected Indian students at Queen’s.
“Indian students are most welcome at Queen’s. They will be properly supported,” Deane said.
To foster an inclusive environment where all students feel welcome, Deane stressed the importance of past and present commemorative events on campus.
Queen’s unveiled a plinth honoring Black medical students on Sept. 13. The event acknowledged the 1918 ban disallowing Black students from being admitted into Queen’s Medical School. The University formally apologized for the ban in 2019, Deane explained.
“[The commemoration] was a frank confrontation with our history,” Deane said.
Deane is now looking forward to Queen’s succeeding the chair of the Matariki Network of Universities, which connects universities around the world.
Gift Acceptance Policy
Questions arose among Board of Trustee members about changes being made to the new Gift Acceptance Policy presented by the Board’s External Relations and Development Committee.
According to the policy amendments, Karen Bertrand, vice-principal (advancement), now has the authority to approve or decline gifts worth less than $5 million, whereas previously it was less than $2 million, while Principal Deane now has the authority to approve or decline gifts between $5 and $10 million.
The scope of the policy was expanded with a new definition of gifts, now including sacred items, based on discussions with Office of Indigenous Initiatives.
The gift giving acceptance policy doesn’t apply to forms of financial support such as sponsored research, according to the report. However, the report defines sponsored research as falling under the gift giving acceptance policy, as outlined by board member Colette Steer.
Bertrand emphasized there is a difference between research funded by government agencies or organizations versus sponsored research.
“There is a large difference between philanthropic versus sponsored sources for research,” Bertrand said at the Board of Trustees meeting.
The changes to the policy were approved.
Devin Fowlie, Society of Graduate & Professional Studies (SGPS), didn’t want the University to forget about graduate students as it works to rectify its deficit.
During his report to the Board of Trustees, Fowlie emphasized the financial instability graduate students at Queen’s face continues to be a major issue.
“Graduate students continue to live near poverty,” Fowlie said during the Board of Trustee meeting.
While food banks and housing subsidies are supporting graduate students, their experience of poverty results from underlying structural issues within the University where graduate students’ salaries are unlivable, Fowlie explained.
“We must look at what financial instability means [for graduate students] and how we negotiate the budget going forward,” Fowlie said. “We cannot see ourselves in Times Higher Education Impact Ranking if we do not follow through on promises to support graduate students.”
As for undergraduate students, AMS President Kate McCauig shared the ongoing challenges the AMS is having with the City of Kingston issuing Part I Court Summons in the University District as students are being assigned in-person court dates over the winter break.
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