Task force to be charged with Board review

Western’s Board of Governors took its first step toward promised self-reflection as members voted Thursday to strike a task force charged with a governance review of the university governing body in the wake of a turbulent spring.

The task force will be comprised of 10 members drawn from the Board’s ranks, including Bylaws Committee Vice-Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board Hanny Hassan (Alumni constituency) and nine others including at least one student, one staff member and one faculty member. Outgoing Board members Regna Darnell (Faculty), Jonathan English (Undergraduate Students) and Susan Grindrod (Administrative Staff) will be eligible to serve on the task force as will any continuing or incoming Board members.

Board members will be invited to volunteer themselves or nominate other members to serve; a vote by the full Board will follow to determine the final slate.

Board Chair Chirag Shah expressed his desire to have some “milestone for discussion” in time for the annual Board Retreat, Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 21-22. The retreat is followed immediately by its next public session at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Overall, the Board had no disagreement on the idea of a task force – an idea Shah called “the best way to move forward.”

Thursday’s meeting represented the governing body’s first opportunity to act on Shah’s April 23 promise “to take a harder look at our governance, our transparency and our communications channels.”

Board members had a preliminary list of issues and questions that could be addressed by the task force. However, the task force will develop its own terms of reference and means of proceeding.

The Board meeting comes three months after Western figures showed the university president was paid $924,000 (plus $43,244.88 in taxable benefits) in 2014 as a result of invoking a clause in his contract. That number sparked almost immediate outrage from the campus community, and culminated in the university Senate conducting an unprecedented pair of non-confidence votes on the leadership of both the president and Board chair on April 17.

Neither vote passed, however both the president and Board chair committed to taking action on a series of concerns.

On April 1, the Board announced an “independent and impartial review of the university’s presidential compensation practices,” led by Stephen T. Goudge, former Justice of the Court of Appeal of Ontario. His report is expected at some point this summer.

Shah has already promised the Board is “committed to implementing (Goudge’s) recommendations.”

On April 10, the president outlined to Senate a listening tour, promising widespread engagement and he has since been meetings with faculty, staff, students and alumni. While the president intends to continue the discussions, he will be reporting to the community later this summer what he has heard to date. He will also be reporting to the Senate in September.