Board Briefs: Thursday May 21

Notes from the latest Board of Governors meeting

Written by: Paige Riding, News Writer

BOG predicts an entire online academic year

Jonathan Driver, Vice-President Academic & Provost pro tem, elaborated on the university’s decision to move most courses online for the Fall 2020 semester. Not only will certain international students struggle to return back to Canada, said Driver, but there are countless students not willing to return to in-person teaching due to compromised health situations or personal reasons. 

“My prediction is that this will continue on into the spring and possibly right through into next summer,” stated Driver.

“We are going to be prepared for at least one academic year where we will have very few students on campus.”

President Report

SFU President Andrew Petter elaborated on the university’s efforts surrounding COVID-19, including conversing with other research universities about how to proceed as an institution while following the Canadian government’s guidelines. 

Petter elaborated on SFU’s Urgent Response Fund for COVID-10 relief. The university has received donations from the Simon Fraser Student Society, various undergraduate students, the Alumni Association, and more. In total, over $335,000 has been raised on top of university-provided funds via bursaries and grants. To date, SFU’s COVID-19 relief funding equals around $3 million.

Annual Enrollment Report

The Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee Chair Angie Hall reported that enrollments remain generally “on target” for both undergraduate and graduate students for the 2019/20 audit year. Domestic student enrollment showed a slight drop, affecting the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in particular. 

The Board predicts a 3% decrease in enrollment for the Fall 2020 semester due to uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.

EMBA Students request tuition cuts as courses go online

Two Masters students in the Executive MBA program, Erik Brinkman and Yasmin Rahman, requested a 40% decrease in tuition and fees for their program due to their courses being delivered remotely.

Brinkman, the EMBA 2019 Working Group spokesperson, explained that keeping fees the same as they are now despite remote delivery would be “a case of overcharging and breach of contract.” Further, the student noted that the negative impact of overcharging students is accentuated in the wake of a pandemic.

The EMBA program’s $57,000+ tuition typically includes interpersonal learning experiences, “enriched with executive leadership networking opportunities to develop strong relationships with profs, mentors, and other business leaders.” With these opportunities being compromised with online courses, the EMBA students hope to see a tuition decrease to reflect this.

The BOG will formally respond to this request via a letter at a later time.

2019–2020 Carry-Forward Update

This report, reflecting changes in the operating budget from the year ending on March 31 2020, showed a carry-over price into the new year of $48 million. This price resulted from “positive variances in investment revenues, increased tuition revenues, and increased Fraser International College royalties, and some related reduced expenditures,” according to presenter Mike Cordoba, Finance Chair.

Under normal circumstances, the Committee would provide a Carry-Forward Spend Plan in which the members would revise the university’s budget to accommodate these funds from the previous year; however, for security in the wake of a pandemic, the Committee instead advised faculties to hold these reserves unless an emergency arises. 

President Andrew Petter explained that “[these reversed funds] have spending expectations and plans associated with them, which we’re asking the faculty and others to try to temper at this time.”