Probing the murk of the BoG

By Stephanie Chan

Though decisions regarding tuition, expansion and insitutional policies all impact students by varying degrees, those who make the decisions are not well known.

"With the exception of the tuition meeting, there’s not a huge student attendance at meetings," explained University of Calgary Board of Governors Chair Brian MacNeill. "There’s usually a few students there depending on what’s on the agenda and some other people from the general public."

Under the Universities Act, members of the BoG are responsible for decisions that affect the finances, long-term planning, programs and other aspects of the university.

"The Board has a responsibility to represent all the stakeholders of the organization, so it would be principally the citizens of the
province of Alberta," explained MacNeill, BoG Chair since July 1, 2001.

There are eight BoG committees to which the 19 members belong. Members of other governing bodies of the university also participate in these committees that make recommendations to the board during meetings held every two months.

Of particular concern to students is the yearly recommendation of the tuition increase by the Planning and Finance Committee to the BoG and the subsequent meeting where the recommended hike may be increased or decreased before approval. Once approved, the tuition for the following year cannot be altered.

"We have a budget prepared, management reviews [it], they determine what basic expenditures are required to run the institution and then we have to look at the revenue sector," explained MacNeill. "There’s really only three sources of revenue: government grants, other income–which is principally user fees and donations–and then student fees."

MacNeill explained some of the difficulties involved in deciding on what amount of increase to approve.

"[Tuition] is an emotional issue," he said. "Obviously fees and support matter to everybody. I think everyone has the best interest of the university at heart but people approach it differently. At the end of the day, the board has the responsibility to determine that the university is financially in shape to go forth and achieve its goals."

MacNeill noted that student representatives are involved in the BoG decision-making process.

"There are fair amounts of discussion with student representatives [on tuition] as it leads up through PFC," he said. "On Nov. 30, the management side will present their reasons for their recommendations and then the student representatives will also present their recommendations. The board will then digest both sides and make a decision."

MacNeill explained that student influence on BoG decisions rests primarily on the shoulders of their student representatives.

"The Board will place weight on what’s presented by the student representatives, they will certainly listen," he said. "I think it’s fair to say that most, if not all of the governors, are aware of the demands placed on students. They hear it almost at every meeting whether it’s from faculty or staff or from the student representatives on the Board."

MacNeill believed that although students may not have the time to attend BoG meetings, they may still be informed on board decisions.

"There are a number of ways for students to get involved and get educated on how their university works," he pointed out. "Most of them are in a whole bunch of other areas whether it’s classes or exams or papers or part time jobs."

The next BoG meeting is at 9 a.m. on Nov. 30 in the U of C Dining Centre Blue Room. The 2002/03 tuition increase will be determined at the meeting.

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