Stages of reopening are guided by Provincial recommendations and guidelines, but USask may decide to move more conservatively in some areas to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.

USask is currently in Stage 3 of reopening.

Introduction

From the first emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university strongly committed to ensuring the continuance of its core governance functions, which are essential for achieving its mission as well as strategic and operational success—this goal remains for the duration of the current circumstances and throughout the transition toward increased on-campus activity.

Resources/Supports

Responsibility for the university’s governance functions remain primarily within the purview of the Office of the University Secretary and Chief Governance Officer; however, this is a collaborative and collegial process in partnership with:

  • The representatives/members of each of the three governing bodies (Board of Governors, Senate, and University Council)
  • The governing bodies’ respective executive committees
  • University administration/leadership

And in cooperation with / informed by:

  • Pandemic Response Team (PRT)
  • Office of the Vice-Provost Faculty Relations

Roles and Responsibilities

This remains largely the same: https://secretariat.usask.ca

Key Assumptions

  • Every effort will be made to maintain the core governance functions of the university in order to guide and support its academic, financial, community engagement, and strategic endeavours, such that the “what” of these functions will continue even when the “how” must be adapted to any given scenario.

  • Even under the most restrictive pandemic scenarios that might be encountered (but are not currently anticipated), some ongoing operative governance functions will be required.

  • Prolonged remote decision-making and absence of interaction and deliberation will risk detriments to the relationships among and between governing bodies and the university, and may erode trust and engagement. Thus, maintaining engagement is an explicit focus and communication in all its forms will be an essential means to mitigating an erosion of governance integrity and functioning.

  • Our ability to demonstrate that our governing bodies can continue/facilitate decision making under even the most challenging circumstances (and do so in a way that is timely, responsive, and responsible) will contribute to our positive public reputation and trust.

  • All governing bodies (and the majority of their committees) represent groups larger than 10 people; Senate and Council each have more than 100 members. Even under a ‘blended’ or ‘gradual return’ scenario, these bodies are unlikely to be permitted to meet in-person for an extended period of time.

  • In deciding on alternative formats and platforms through which to hold meetings, engage in discussion, and perform all of the governance functions, we must strive for balance among potentially contending factors, including but not limited to:
    • Increased demands on members of our governing bodies and committees, resource and support staff that are realized in the transition to remote work environments (e.g., increased workloads overall, caregiver/parenting/home educator duties, etc.) and a need for greater flexibility

    • Benefits and limitations of online meeting platforms (e.g., opportunity for synchronous discussion of issues versus interrupted or unreliable transmission due to technical difficulties or bandwidth issues; usability of platforms versus security concerns; suitability or effectiveness of platforms/formats for large groups; members’ and chairs’ preferences and/or level of comfort and familiarity with format; unequal access)

  • Onboarding of new members, committee representatives, and leaders within the governing bodies (which will happen due to natural annual turnover effective July 1, but will be realized more fully at the start of the Fall semester) may be challenged commensurate with the degree of remote functioning required; innovative and different approaches will be needed, and deliberate succession in leadership roles will be essential.

  • Some ‘discretionary’ activities (e.g., Senate education committee, which generally uses interactive large-group discussions) will need to be put on hold, with efforts undertaken to maintain relationships and engagement.

  • Regardless of the degree of in-person contact, the governing bodies represent an important conduit to the university and broader communities, and can provide opportunities for advocacy, support, and advice.

Plan/Logistics

As all governing bodies are N>10; Senate and Council N>100. Governing bodies will likely not be permitted meet in-person for some time. Thus, the majority of communications and processes will remain digital/remote into the fall. Most circumstances have been, and can continue to be through the fall, handled via ‘normal’ decision and authority pathways, with some adjustments to process (i.e., electronic) and timelines.

There are roughly three categories of situations relevant now and into Fall, vis-à-vis governance and decision-making:

  1. Emergency (e.g., COVID-19 related) situations that must be dealt with immediately and thus clearly justify use of ‘emergency measures’ and deviations from normal decision processes and/or use of delegations of authority.

  2. Situations arising from current (i.e. COVID-19 related) circumstances that are urgent but could follow ‘normal’ processes, although these may require adjusted timelines or other modifications.

  3. Urgent items that arise, but are not emergency circumstances (e.g., in this case, are not COVID-19 related) and therefore have little justification for ‘emergency measures.’

(A delegations of authority summary is available from the Office of the University Secretary and Chief Governance Officer (OUS), with examples of each of the above including the pathways for decision making.)

Some form of enhanced interactivity (while remaining mindful of the bandwidth and associated demands of ‘higher-tech’ approaches to large meetings) is desirable for richer deliberations and engagement. We will thus be seeking to Implement practical approaches to increase the extent of synchronous communication that can enable deliberation/dialogue for virtual meetings of governing bodies. We will also ensure that we engage in regular, purposeful, and transparent communications with Board, Senate, and Council beyond the ‘regular business’ of meetings.

Some committees, working groups, as well as student appeals and hearings may be able to meet in person once we are advised that it is appropriate to do so (based on guidelines and policies of government, Saskatchewan Health Authority, PRT and COT). Until that time, all will proceed as they have been in winter/spring 2020, via adapted virtual processes.

Likewise, collegial processes continue, and are completed remotely as they have been through winter/spring 2020, until advised otherwise (authority is the Board, but delegated to Colleges and guided by collective agreement).

Fall convocation is unlikely to occur as an in-person gathering (N>100). Final decisions will need to be made in this regard by late August/early September.

Timelines and Deliverables

  • May/June: Board and its committees meet remotely. Council continues to meet asynchronously, as decided by its Coordinating Committee, using email for Q&A (posted for members) and electronic voting ballots for decision items. Council committees meet remotely based on members’ preferences and needs.

  • July/August: Board and its committees meet remotely. Council and Senate are not scheduled to meet. Orientation and succession efforts are underway. The Coordinating Committee of Council and/or Senate Executive Committee may be called upon to discuss or advise upon Council matters, or to provide oversight in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Decision required about Fall convocation.

  • September onward: Board and its committees meet remotely. After additional consultation with members regarding their preferences and capabilities, Council and its committees may meet remotely (revert to asynchronous if most appropriate and reliable). Additional consultation with Senate members as to preferences, capabilities, and access to alternative meeting platforms (revert to asynchronous if most appropriate and reliable).