Board of Trustees goes to Parliament

Board aims to reduce seats from 44 to 25

The Queen’s Board of Trustees is trying to reduce the number of elected members from 44 to 25. To do so, they will require parliamentary approval.

The Board of Trustees is one of three governing bodies of the University along with the University Council and the Senate, all of which are assisted by the University Secretariat.

“The Board of Trustees is in charge of making financial decisions, appointing the principal, the vice-principals and responsible for...overall fiduciary responsibilities,” said Board Chair Bill Young.

Young, Sci ’77, said decreasing the membership is meant to increase efficiency within the Board.

“We came to the number 25 as a result of an annual board survey that we have conducted every year, [starting] three years ago,” Young said, adding that the purpose of the survey is to grade how members feel the board is functioning and to identify how the board can improve.

“One of the things evident from the first survey was the sense within the board that too many people were in the room,” he said. “The feeling was that it was too big a group to have in-depth conversations about topics as it would overwhelm the agenda.”

Young said there was strong consensus on substantially reducing the size of the board, especially because it will be cheaper to operate.

“Last December we appointed a task force to talk about the issue of the size of the Board [with] other universities and trustees. The task force surveyed trustees, past principals and chancellors,” he said. Universities like McGill and Dalhousie have both recently reduced the size of their boards, producing positive results.

Young said the fundamental responsibilities would remain unchanged, but that the Board should become more effective and efficient.

“Right now with 44 trustees, the board has nine different committees [and] a lot of detailed work is done by the committees. However, when we bring issues into the board, because of its size it’s difficult to have cross-cutting conversations,” he said. “Everyone voted for this because at the end of the day the trustees believe that this is the path that the University should move forward on.”

Young said the change will favour students, faculty and staff representation over alumni opinions. Currently the Board is made up of three exofficio members, 15 members elected by the Board of Trustees, six elected by the graduates, six elected by the University Council, seven elected by the benefactors, one representative for the Queen’s School of Religious Studies and two representatives each for students, faculty and the staff.

With the amendment the board hopes to phase out the graduates, benefactors and School of Religious Studies representatives as their terms expire. The Board of Trustees will also elect fewer members in the future.

“With our changes we will have a higher proportionate representation of students, faculty and staff on our board. Two out of 25 is far greater than two out of 44,” Young said adding that the board was also careful to maintain the current number of appointments for the University Council so that all six members can sit on the Board.

“[Going to parliament] should be relatively straightforward process; however there is some legal process necessary,” he said, adding that the lawyers are currently drafting the document which will be presented to Parliament in order to amend the charter.

University Secretary Georgina Moore said that there are certain parliamentary requirements which the legal council must follow when preparing the documents.

“We’re hoping that [the document] will be sufficiently prepared in the way that Parliament requires it to be, so it will not be delayed and sent back for corrections,” Moore said, adding that the document will be presented to the parliament by the legal counsel on behalf of the board.

“Depending on Parliament’s requirements; the principal may need to appear,” she said.

Moore said the reason that the Board must seek parliamentary approval when making amendments to the Queen’s Charter is due to historic circumstances.

“The charter was originally created in 1841, from Queen Victoria that established the structure of the University,” she said. “Initially called Queen’s College, it’s a type of federal charter which can be amended by federal statutes.” Queen’s University was first established by the Royal Charter of Queen Victoria, 26 years before the Canadian Confederation. Due to this, exclusive jurisdiction is given to the legislation of the Parliament of Canada when ammendments are to be made to the charter.

The last time a change was made to the charter was in 1996 when the membership of the board increased as two representatives were each added for student, faculty and staff. The process took eight months.

“It’s a process of evolution over time. It’s important to make the point that this charter started in 1841, and we are working with a structure that is historic.”

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