27 March 2018

Teleconference & Process

The Carleton University Board of Governors meeting began oddly. The chair of the board mentioned that the open session was being held completely via teleconference because the CUPE 2424 strike made traveling onto campus too difficult. However, the chair of the board and the chair of the board’s finance committee both claimed to be dialing-in from the university president’s suite in 503 Tory, not from the Board of Governors boardroom.

The board chair announced that there would be no closed session today. This announcement makes sense because issues with collective bargaining are handled exclusively by the board’s executive committee. I wonder whether an emergency meeting of the executive committee was convened via teleconference immediately after the open session adjourned.

Because the open session was held via teleconference, I was forced to listen to the meeting from the remote live-stream site in Southam Hall. Surprisingly, a special constable was guarding this room. Teleconferencing supposedly caused the board chair to conduct the meeting in a way that defied the board’s usual rules. The chair stated during many votes that he “assumed that everyone was in favour of the motion” and therefore only called for votes in opposition or abstentions for every motion.

CUPE 2424 strike

Item 5 on the open session agenda was a “report on negotiations”. The head of human resources was delegated to speak. He said that Carleton reached out to an external mediator, which the union agreed to. The head of human resources said that he was hoping that this would bring the strike to an end/resolution. He spoke for less than 20 seconds! This was immediately followed by the chair of the board stating that no specific questions would be allowed in open session and that questions about mandates were exclusively the purview of the board’s executive committee, which technically is true. That was it for item 5, all done in less than a minute, with no questions.

The only other item in open session explicitly about the CUPE 2424 strike occurred during the president’s report. The university interim president said that he had submitted a written report (pages 95-96 of the open session meeting binder) and therefore would not submit a verbal report, but would field questions. An internal member of the board then asked why there was nothing in the president’s report – either written or verbal – about the CUPE 2424 strike. The university interim president said this matter was for the bargaining table and for the head of human resources’ 20-second verbal utterance earlier in the meeting.

Later, the chair of the board’s finance committee apologized to the board for the finance committee meeting scheduled for 14 March 2018 being disrupted, which I assume meant disrupted by the strike. The chair of the board’s public relations and advancement committee said that she had cancelled the latest “talk exchange” because of disruptions, which I again assume meant cancelled by the strike.


Carleton’s administration has lots of money in reserve funds. According to the vice president finance, these include $126 million in capital reserve funds, $120 million in pension solvency reserves, and $70 million in carry-forward appropriations. The vice president finance said that, “the first two of these reserve funds will largely be used for their designated purposes.” External auditors had flagged the need for a policy on how to spend such reserve funds, which resulted in a policy being approved at the board today. However, this new policy on moving monies from reserve funds vests complete authority in “the Financial Planning Group (FPG) [which] is an advisory committee to the president” (here), hence provides little if any real oversight or insight by the board.

The chair of the finance committee and the vice president finance announced that Carleton was once again running a substantial surplus this year, supposedly of $10.1 million. The chair of the finance committee started by saying that the surplus was “largely due to increased enrolments and holding down expenses.” He said the surplus was lower this year than in previous years because of increasing expenses. The chair of the board then mused that last year’s surplus was only $12-13 million. However 2017 board open session documents show that the previous year’s claimed surplus was three times that amount, at $38 million.

There were several motions proffered regarding budgets, all of which were moved by the chair of the board’s finance committee and seconded by the university interim president. While this is proper, it seemed peculiar for the interim president to second motions when virtually anybody else on the board could have done that.

Parking and Driving

The board passed a $68 million ancillary budget. This includes $14 million for the gym, as well as monies for parking, residences, health & counseling services, etc., all of which are supposed to be self-funding entities. The vice president finance mentioned adding three additional floors to the parking garage over the O-Train, to be installed for $25 million when the O-Train is closed for upgrades in 2020-2021. But the vice president finance and board chair said that no planning nor formal requests for funding will be brought to the full board until 2019. An internal board member asked if there was a parking shortage that necessitated this doubling of the O-Train parking garage. The vice president finance replied that there is only a parking shortage “in the most preferred places and times.” The parking garage over the O-Train is not a preferred place for people on campus. The only way that this parking garage is at a preferred time and place is if you are walking to football or hockey games at Lansdowne.

Internal board members mentioned that it is nigh impossible exiting from the adjacent dirt and pothole-laden parking lot on the northeast end of campus, especially in the evenings.

The vice president finance mentioned two possible new roadway entrances/exits from campus, in addition to the two currently existing ones on Bronson at Sunnyside and at the south end of Colonel By. He mentioned a new bus-only entrance/exit on Bronson, which I assume will be at the east end of Raven Road at southbound Bronson. He mentioned consulting with the NCC for a new entrance/exit on the northwest end of campus off of northbound Colonel By, probably near the O-Train parking garage. This would certainly help diffuse picketing during any future strikes.

A board member suggested making the main road loop through campus one-way for all vehicles, something currently only done for busses, a suggestion that fell flat.

Health Building

The new health building, which is gradually becoming operational after long delays, is now slated to have its 4th and 6th floors finished. They were inexplicably not part of the original construction budget, which was one way to keep the building within budget. The board approved an extra $9 million to finish those two floors, although this does not include any costs for equipment. The board was told that equipment will be paid from ELBA funds (enrollment-linked budget allocations) that have already been approved by the interim dean of science. I sincerely hope that this does not use up all of science’s ELBA funds for the year.

The first four ‘finished’ floors of the health building (1, 2, 3, 5) are supposedly 99% complete. The 7th floor animal care facility is supposedly 95% complete. This is despite the fact that there were supposedly 300 change orders once work was ostensibly completed. A board member opined that neither the finance committee nor building committee had full discussions of this ongoing construction debacle. The chair of the building committee then admitted that his committee was indeed too rushed in approving the heath building construction. Compounding this lack of oversight, a governor said that the entire board on 8 February 2018 received questions, but no answers, about the new health building.

The interim university president ‘publicly’ apologized for the lack of consultation with the departments of neuroscience and health with respect to the move to this new building. I put ‘publicly’ in quotes because the open session was not really open to the public other than from the police-guarded live-stream room.

ARSE Building

Contrary to what was reported at the 8 February 2018 open session, the chair of the building committee said that the university had applied to the province for a funding extension for the ARSE (Advanced Research in Smart Environments) building, which is currently only 40-45% complete.

Dominion-Chalmers church

An advisor to the board was tasked with providing an update on the purchase of Dominion-Chalmers church. This seemed odd given that this portfolio had previously been the purview of the interim president, who at the previous open session had promised a major announcement on the purchase on or around 2 March 2018 unless the deal was floundering. No announcement has been made yet. The advisor to the board said he hopes a final purchase agreement will be executed in a few weeks, but that negotiations are still confidential.

Selection/election of new board members

The board chair mentioned that 166 individuals had applied for upcoming vacancies as at-large governors. He also reported that all newly elected student governors were female. He did not report on upcoming elections for academic staff and non-academic staff governors, one of each who must be elected this spring, but nominations and elections have not yet been announced.

Closing Remarks

This blog posting reflects my opinions and reporting of events at the open session of the Carleton Board of Governors. No closed session occurred this evening. This posting is not meant as a proxy for the official minutes of the meeting nor for the official summary that is drafted prior to the meeting (here). As always, I welcome your feedback.

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