Members and the community discuss university affairs from renovations to Indigenization
On Friday, Feb. 2, Mount Allison’s Board of Regents held their first meeting open to public attendance. The Board of Regents is responsible for managing university business such as investments and finances, academic and student affairs, and governance. Historically, meetings have been closed to all non-board members, such as Mt. A students, faculty and staff.
The meeting began with a presentation from Divest MTA. The environmental group asked the board to consider their concerns about Mt. A’s continued investment in fossil fuels, and laid out a plan of action they would like to see the board follow. Divest’s demands included the creation of a committee to investigate options for divestment, as well as a formal vote from the board accepting or rejecting divestment. Divest asked that the vote take place at the board’s first meeting of the 2018-19 academic year.
Divest’s presentation was met with applause from the board. The meeting proceeded on to the president’s address.
“The big story this year, in my opinion, is campus Indigenization,” said President Robert Campbell. He spoke of the effects of Mt. A’s Year of Indigenous Knowing and Year of Indigenous Action “in the classroom, in the library, in teaching methods, in presentations and activities.”
Campbell was optimistic, but cautious not to overstate the effects of Indigenization efforts. “This is not something that is going to happen in one year or in three years or seven years or 10 years. This is a seven-generation struggle,” he said.
Campbell also thanked a number of Indigenous leaders and activists who recently gave lectures at Mt. A, including Naiomi Metallic, Perry Bellegarde and Roberta Jamieson. “It’s been gratifying to get feedback from folks … who have given us advice but also acknowledged the good work that has been going on at Mount Allison,” he said.
Kim Meade, vice president of international and student affairs, discussed the University’s recruitment efforts. “We’re visiting over 400 high schools in 10 different countries, 20 processions, eight bus tours, two open houses,” she said. Meade also said that Mt. A is trying specifically to engage Indigenous students, but did not specify how.
When questioned by board member Jill Rafuse on the topic of the decanal restructuring proposal, Jeff Ollerhead, the provost and vice-president of academic and research affairs, had a few remarks to make.
“This is a little awkward,” he said. “Most of the commentary doesn’t relate to the proposal I actually tried to put out.”
Ollerhead said there was still more work to be done on the proposal: “We’re going to go back to the drawing board. I’ve got a lot of feedback. I’ve got feedback both external to the university and from stakeholders within the University. It won’t surprise you that the appetite for change is generally better graced the farther away you are.” Ollerhead said he will be considering feedback and working on a new version of the proposal.
Ollerhead also spoke about future efforts to update the library. “Any current Mount Allison student will know that when you go to our library there are not enough places to plug in. Nobody who planned the library 50 years ago walked in the doors with a minimum of two devices,” he said. “We need to start thinking about fundraising efforts around the library.”
Although he acknowledged that it was in its earliest days of planning, board member Barry Kyle also commented on the challenges of the upcoming library project. During construction the library will still need to be accessible in some capacity in order to serve students, making any renovations that eventually happen potentially very complex and expensive.
Kyle also gave an update on campus construction projects. According to Kyle, construction in Barclay is on time and on budget. However, due to glazing issues and hurricane weather this past summer, the work on the Gairdner Building has been delayed, and will not be completed on time.
Upcoming renovations on Windsor Hall were also discussed. “That building will be closed before the end of the [calendar] year,” said Kyle. “All other beds will be open as much as possible to be able to accommodate our students, particularly those wanting single rooms.”
Although he acknowledged that it was in its earliest days of planning, Kyle also commented on the challenges of the upcoming library project. During construction the library will still need to be accessible in some capacity in order to serve students, making any renovations that eventually happen potentially very complex and expensive.
Finally, Kyle mentioned the possibility of selling the Quarry Lane property owned by the University to the town of Sackville. If purchased, the city may use the property, located at the end of Quarry Lane, to mitigate water flow into Sackville.
The board took a break after about an hour and a half of discussion and updates. Members of the public were not invited to attend the second part of the meeting.
The board passed two motions, both during the open meeting: reappointing Grant Thornton as the University’s auditors and approving recommendations regarding board committee appointments.
The next meeting of the Board of Regents will be on May 15, 2018. It is unclear whether this meeting will also be open to the public.