Mary Jo Larson, Chair of Quest’s Board of Governors, announced during Community Update last Monday that the Board will now begin publishing their agenda and meeting minutes on the Quest website. The agenda for the January meeting is currently posted. The meeting minutes will follow as soon as each board member approves them.
This decision marks the first time in Quest’s history that the Board has published either the subject or the content of what they discuss.
In an email to the Mark, Larson said she expects the meeting minutes to take four weeks. Typically the board has approved meeting minutes at their next meeting (in this case, March 2nd), but they decided to speed up the process for publication.
Larson told the Mark that the decision was made because of multiple requests by current students and alumni. She explained that the Board was “reluctant to publish the agenda and minutes in the past, because each Board meeting involves at least a few confidential matters that cannot be discussed publicly”. The Board will now save those discussions for their “Executive Session”, which currently occurs after each meeting. “I hope the students will be glad to know that their concern and input has had an impact” Larson concluded.
The Board’s decision marks a significant change in the evolving discussion around Board transparency. In December, the Student Representative Council wrote a resolution advocating that the Board take on a member from the students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The new Quest University Canada Alumni Association has also made plans to advocate for greater representation on the Board.
The agenda for the January 13 meeting indicates the Board planned to hold a three hour regular meeting, which will make up the published minutes. The executive session is scheduled to take six hours. It will not be documented in the minutes.
The board planned to discuss a range of issues directly affecting students. One bullet point notably reads: “tuition cap”, another: “early payment discount”. Quest tuition has risen by $10,000 in the past decade (see “This Degree Ain’t Free”, this issue). To our knowledge, a tuition cap has not been discussed publicly with students.
The first item under the President’s section is the “DQAB recommendations”. The Degree Quality Assessment Board audited Quest in September. At his ‘Fireside chat’ President George Iwama explained that the DQAB expects the university to comply to three major recommendations: 1) two members of the board meet to discuss financial and legal issues with the chair and vice-chair of the DQAB, 2) “monetize” Quest’s remaining assets, 3) create a “teach-out plan” with another University—an agreement where students can transfer should the university close.
Quest’s recent decision to partner with Board member Michael Hutchinson, and build on its remaining land parcels may be a first step towards recommendation two.
Quest may have also accomplished recommendation three by creating a “teach-out plan” with Capilano University in North Vancouver. The Squamish Chief reported last week that Capilano agreed to accept Quest transferors into their bachelor of arts program with a major in “Liberal Studies” beginning in September of this year.
Other agenda items of note include Destination Quest, “Board member recruitment”, and “the leases on North and South”.
The last item is significant because, as reported last issue, Quest claims in its defense statement in the lawsuit with former president Peter Englert that one of the reasons for his firing was because, according to Quest, Englert signed a “lease modification” on North and South. Quest claims the agreement, made with owner of the buildings, the Almoner Foundation, “increased the rate payable by Quest in the range of 23 percent” as well as “removing Quest’s right of renewal”. They conclude, “The loss of renewal was a benefit to Almoner and a detriment to Quest, which may negatively affect Quest’s ability to offer residences, potentially limit the student population and pose challenges for both Quest and students”.
Finally, the Board planned to discuss the ombudsperson. Karen Elliott, Quest’s first to hold the position, is leaving January 28 after serving since August 2016. Quest is reportedly searching for her replacement.