Corporate Governance I: BoG

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 | 1 Comment

Since my time on the Board, I’ve taken an interest in governance best practices. And if not that, at least been more keenly aware of the relationships that build at Board levels, how the selection of a key few political appointees can really make a difference.

To that end I was particularly intrigued by the most recent provincial appointee to UBC BoG: Ross S. Smith. There are two interesting affiliations of note. The first is that he is a corporate Director (presumably external) of HSBC Canada. Veteran UBC Board-watchers will recall former Board member Martin Glynn is the former President and COO of HSBC Canada, and is now a senior executive with the bank in New York. A few years ago, when MBA students (unsuccessfully) sued the University for raising their tuitions, Mr. Glynn was accused of being in a conflict of interest. Why? Because HSBC was very active in commercial student loan financing, and the increase in tuition would certainly have been a boon to a commercial loan business. He was found to not be in a legal conflict of interest. Nevertheless, having bank Directors on UBC’s Board at a time of loan dependency and increased student credit card debt does raise the issue of the role of commercial loan providers.

His second interesting affiliation is as Director of the Quest University Canada Foundation. For those who don’t know, Quest University is a non-profit private university founded and championed by former UBC President David Strangway. Quest, for obvious reasons, is a significant challenge to the public education system in BC. As a private university, it is seeking to provide a different experience than in the large(er), public universities in the province. Now there are already private universities operating in BC. There are the sketchy, below-board, for-profit ones, and there is Trinity Western, a religious university that also provides a good education. But Quest is unique, in that it’s a private secular university in the model of a small, U.S. private liberal arts college. There are some who suggest that it’s a direct threat to the public character of BC Universities. I personally happen to disagree, but even I find it very questionable that the province would seem to be so strongly endorsing Quest by appointing one of its Board members to that of its largest post-secondary institution.

Tonight, when my paper is done, Part II of my corporate governance mini-series: How UBC Properties Trust is the dominant threat to UBC governance.


1 Comment so far

  1. Spencer on April 12, 2007 1:29 am

    Maybe they think it’s a good idea to have a link between the two universities to share best practices? Maybe UBC could benefit from hearing about the things Quest is up to.

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