Changes have been made to Memorial University’s Board of Regents to improve governance at the university.
As per the Memorial University Act, the Board of Regents is responsible for the management, administration and control of the property, revenue, business and affairs of Memorial University.
The recent changes include more representation from the broader Memorial community, more efficient committee structures and expanded onboarding that’s more reflective of current governance issues.
In addition, the Board is committed to the Government of Canada’s 50 – 30 Challenge to increase the representation and inclusion of diverse groups.
The Board of Regents, which is comprised of a diverse group of volunteers, grew substantially in the last six months.
Fifteen new appointments have been made to the Board since July. This includes, for the first time, two members of the teaching staff of the university, appointed by the provincial government. This was made possible through amendments to the Memorial University Act in May of this year.
The provincial government also recently appointed a fourth student to the Board, the first time all four student seats have been filled in a number of years. Three undergraduate students and one graduate student, each nominated by their respective student unions, sit on the Board of Regents.
In addition, six alumni were elected by the alumni body, effective Sept. 1, with five of these six being new to the Board.
Glenn Barnes was appointed chair of the Board in fall 2022. Anik Rahman was elected as vice-chair of the board at the Oct. 18, 2023, meeting.
The board committee composition has changed. The number of committees has been reduced to eight from 10, with new terms of reference and updated mandates to better reflect strategic governance priorities.
While several previous committees where merged and their mandates refreshed, a new Board-Senate Liaison Sub-Committee was added, which reports to the Executive and Governance Committee. In addition, the Physical and Digital Infrastructure Committee was created to oversee information technology assets and cyber security as well as physical property, plant and equipment.
These changes came about when, in November 2022, the Governance Committee initiated a full review of all board committees. The new structure and updated terms of reference were developed under the principles of a smaller, dynamic and more efficient board structure and in keeping with governance best practices.
Onboarding and professional development
In September, a revamped and expanded onboarding program for new and returning members of the Board of Regents was introduced.
It included content related to conflict of interest and fiduciary responsibilities, as well as individual meetings with the Board chair the executive director of the University Governance Secretariat and general counsel.
This new onboarding also includes professional development sessions to provide regents with the requisite information, materials and experiences to understand the nuances of the university so they can fulfil their fiduciary duties in a timely and efficient manner.
This will include a greater emphasis on the essential responsibilities of a fiduciary on a governing board in higher education within a bicameral governance system.
“These changes and updates will ensure regents are prepared for their role and fiduciary commitments, which is vital to the success of the university,” said Mr. Barnes. “It will better equip regents to be engaged with the Memorial community, its programs and facilities that are at the core of Memorial’s identity, and to govern in the best interest of the institution.”
The meeting structure has also changed.
Regents now convene for a full day of activities, which will consist of three components: a strategic session allowing more time for thoughtful dialogue and information sharing; a professional development session; and a meeting for official business to be conducted. To further foster engagement and transparency, meetings are also open to members of the community, except during sessions designated closed or in camera.
“Over the past several years, the number of items coming before the Board have been increasing, as well as a desire for the Board to have time to focus on matters of more strategic importance and governance oversight,” noted Mr. Barnes. “The expanded program provides opportunities for regents to connect and bond, to engage and connect with senior leaders, faculty, staff and students around the university, and to learn about Memorial University.”
More information is available on the Board of Regents website.