Engagements and initiatives

Cassels walking with students
The president is an advocate for the university—locally, provincially and internationally.

Upcoming and current

President's response to reappointment—March 29, 2017

Dear colleagues,

I am honoured to be renewed as President of the University of Victoria for a second term and pleased to accept the responsibility that comes with this role.

Leading and serving the University of Victoria for the past four years has been a great privilege and pleasure. We can all share pride in what this university has achieved in its first 54 years and can be confident about our potential to accomplish great things in the future. I am proud of what we are accomplishing together.

UVic is very well positioned to build on the excellence of its research and teaching, grow its reputation, and to find even more ways to work with and benefit our students and our communities, locally, nationally and globally. I am optimistic about the prospects for UVic and am excited to lead the university through a new strategic planning process commencing this year. The planning process will allow us to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing UVic and our community, and to work together to develop strategic directions for the next five years.

I look forward to continuing to serve and work with all of my faculty and staff colleagues, our students and our community over the coming years.

Jamie

Jamie Cassels, QC
President and Vice-Chancellor

Government of Canada’s 2017 federal budget—March 24, 2017

Members of our campus community will be interested in information about the recent federal budget and some of its impacts on post-secondary education. The Government of Canada is proceeding in a cautious manner with its 2017-18 financial strategy, but there are reasons for optimism.

Here are some brief observations of initiatives that you might find of interest:

  • “Supercluster” growth strategy: This is a $950 million fund that aims to develop specific strategies over the next five years built around manufacturing, agri-foods, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and clean resources. There is a strong emphasis on post-secondary participation and partnership based on the view that collaboration will accelerate innovation and economic growth.
  • Co-operative education: A $221-million investment over five years will create 10,000 spaces for work-integrated learning placements for Canadian post-secondary students and graduates.
  • Indigenous education: The Post-Secondary Student Support Program will provide $90 million over two years to help support the financial needs of more than 4,600 Indigenous students. The Indspire program receives $25 million over the next five years, with some conditional matching funds, to provide a total of $40-million in bursaries and scholarships to more than 12,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis students.
  • The Canada Student Loans Program: Eligibility for Canada Student Grants has been expanded to include part-time students who meet a single, national income threshold and students who support their families.
  • Tuition Tax Credits: Courses eligible for the Tuition Tax Credit will now include occupational skills courses.
  • Canada 150 Research Chairs: There will be about 25 Canada 150 Research Chairs created to attract and support top-tier international scholars and researchers to enhance Canada’s reputation for research excellence. There will be an investment of $117.6 million over eight years for these chairs, within the existing Canada Excellence Research Chairs program. The current Canada Excellence Research Chairs competition will continue as planned.
  • National Research Council: The Council will receive $59.6 million this year to support its business initiatives. The Council will also undergo a review in 2017, to assess how it can best support the Innovation and Skills Plan, including creating more opportunities for women researchers and innovators. UVic has a strong and important partnership with the NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics institute.
  • Sidney Plant Health Centre: Budget 2017 will provide $80 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to replace the Sidney Centre for Plant Health, located in Sidney, British Columbia. A new, world-class plant health research facility will help support the safety of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector, and generate local and national economic growth.

In sum, Canada’s universities are looking beyond the current budget cycle and towards the government’s continuing support of the post-secondary sector. Integral to this will be the release of the upcoming report from the government's Fundamental Science Review Panel, led by Dr. David Naylor. After last year’s increase, funding for the granting councils is at steady-state, but this report is expected to provide a roadmap for globally competitive and stable investments in research. I will update you about this and any other developments as they come forward.

For more information, please consult Universities Canada release.

Jamie Cassels, QC
President and Vice-Chancellor

No room for racism or discrimination at UVic—March 23, 2017

There has been continuing discussion on our campus relating to the University of Victoria’s commitment to uphold our values as a diverse community and to combat racism. Last week, one of the University of Victoria’s Student Society (UVSS) advocacy groups, the Third Space, challenged students to participate in an interactive art installation where people could write comments about fighting racism and challenging white supremacy.

The unfortunate reality was just the opposite. The art project was vandalized by offensive graffiti and racist remarks. UVic’s Division of Student Affairs worked with the UVSS to remove those comments and to carefully consider the resulting outcomes. When it became apparent this strategy was not working, the UVSS requested the installation be taken down to mitigate against further damaging and hateful messages.

We celebrate our campus as an inclusive and welcoming community and we do not tolerate racism or the promotion of hatred against any person or group. Universities are places that encourage diversity of thought, opinion and ideas, and that value and protect freedom of speech. At the same time, there is no room for discrimination, harassment and hateful communications.  We remain committed to upholding our values as a community where we can learn, work and live with mutual respect. We all share a responsibility to eradicate racist attitudes and behaviour wherever we find them.

If you are a student who has been affected by the events of last week and would like assistance, please contact the Office of Student Life, Counselling Services, Multifaith Services or the Office of Equity and Human Rights. If you are a faculty or staff member who has been affected, please contact the Office of Equity and Human Rights, or employee assistance.

Jamie Cassels, QC
President and Vice-Chancellor

Update on US travel restrictions—March 6, 2017

On March 6, the US administration issued a new executive order replacing its Jan. 27 order and banning entry into the United States by immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries.

The university is currently reviewing the new executive order and its potential impacts on students, faculty and staff at UVic.

The new order, which revokes the Jan. 27 executive order, excludes Iraq from the original named countries, but continues to apply a 90-day ban on issuance of new visas, including student visas, to citizens of six countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order also bans refugees from all countries for 120 days. The new order exempts those with current visas, lawful permanent residents, diplomatic travel and entry of dual nationals. The new travel ban will not come into full effect until March 16. 

The working group I established in early February is meeting this week to examine the new order, assess its implications and make any further recommendations necessary, including the allocation of funds I have made available for this purpose.

I want to emphasize once again our commitment at UVic to the values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect. These values are central to the very mission of our university and the extraordinarily important role universities play in encouraging dialogue on critical social issues, particularly during times of change and conflict.

I would like to thank the working group for its ongoing efforts and assure you that we will continue to monitor the potential impacts of the executive order and take steps to mitigate them. 

Jamie Cassels, QC
President and Vice-Chancellor

Interim report from the president’s working group on US travel restrictions—Feb. 23, 2017

On Feb. 3, I established an institutional working group to assess how the Jan. 27 US executive order banning entry into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries is affecting students, faculty and staff at UVic, and how best to meet their immediate needs.

Since then, the travel ban has been suspended by the US courts. While this removed the temporary restrictions for individuals from the seven named countries, we anticipate a further executive order will be issued in the near future that may impact or influence common issues and challenges facing members of our campus community, as well as those trying to access our community.

In the meantime, the working group has developed a series of interim recommendations, which I have accepted. They include access to funding for public events that promote discussion of these events, flexible deadlines and the ability to waive application fees for graduate students affected by any US travel ban, and continued support for English-language programming for refugees.

Once the parameters of the replacement order are known and its impact on UVic faculty, staff and students has been assessed, I will work with the vice-presidents and working group to further develop the recommendations if required, and consider how to allocate the funds that I have made available.

I would like to thank the working group members for their hard work and thoughtful advice within such a short time frame. Please watch this web page for information on UVic's institutional response to the new executive order once it is issued.

Jamie Cassels, QC
President and Vice-Chancellor

Statement at Senate from UVic President, Jamie Cassels on Quebec City murders and US executive order – Feb 3, 2017

I want to begin by addressing the events of this week - both the shootings at the Quebec mosque and the announcement of the US executive order restricting immigration and refugee mobility. I do not want to conflate or equate these two things, but they are related because they each involve the targeting of a specific group based on their religious or cultural identity. These events affect all of us, especially those members of our university community who are of the Muslim faith. And they affect our university because they are antithetical to our values.

I want every member of our community, and in this case, particularly those of the Muslim faith, to know that they are welcome here. Violence, xenophobic rhetoric, and policy targeted at specific groups like this are antithetical to the values of a university. Indeed, the values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect are at the heart of our university's mission.  The discovery and dissemination of knowledge and ideas, the search for truth, the effort to make a positive contribution, can only succeed when people of different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives come together to exchange ideas. It is critical that all of us do what we can to guard and strengthen these aspects of our academic environment and the values upon which it depends.

BC universities call for provincial investments—Feb. 3, 2017

As Chair of the Research Universities Council of British Columbia (RUCBC), UVic President Jamie Cassels recently submitted RUCBC's 2017/18 budget proposal to the Government Of British Columbia— Maximizing BC’s Potential.

Now, more than ever, the BC economy's greatest asset is the skills and talents of its people, and BC’s research universities are producing the highly skilled graduates needed for our province to reach its full economic potential. In order to maintain that critical role, the research universities of BC are seeking, through their submission, funding from the provincial government for the following priorities:

  • strategic investments to increase student spaces in engineering and computer science;
  • strategic investments to leverage federal funding from the Canada Innovation Fund and other federal sources;
  • student support services for critical issues like mental health, sexualized violence, and targeted support for Indigenous students and for work-integrated learning;
  • graduate student scholarships and a review of student financial assistance to increase accessibility and affordability for students in need.

In addition, the research universities are seeking approval to self-finance much-needed capital projects, such as student residences, through their own revenue streams.

Statement from UVic President Jamie Cassels on Quebec City murders and the US executive order—Jan. 30, 2017

Jan. 30, 2017 — Members of the University of Victoria community are deeply affected by two incidents which occurred over the past weekend.

First, our thoughts are with the families and friends affected by the heart-breaking tragedy at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Québec City on Sunday night. Hatred and intolerance strike at the fundamental values we treasure as Canadians, and the murder of our fellow citizens, driven by these evils, affects every one of us. It also spurs us to redouble our commitment at this university to the promotion of tolerance, respect, and inclusion in everything we do.

Counselling support for UVic students is available at Counselling Services and for faculty and staff through our Employee and Family Assistance Program provider.

Impact of Jan. 27 US executive order on immigration and refugees

Second, as a member of Universities Canada, and because we are aware that members of our community may be personally affected, UVic strongly supports the statement issued Jan. 29 about Friday’s US executive order which bans entry to the US by citizens of designated countries and refugees. We share the concerns of all Universities Canada member institutions about this order and its impact on students, faculty, and staff at UVic, as well as on academic activities and society more generally. 

We are aware that there are students, faculty and staff at our university who may be directly and personally affected by the executive order. We encourage any university community members who are concerned about how the executive order may impact their work or studies to approach their unit heads or supervisors. In addition, the following may be consulted:

For students:

For faculty:

For students, faculty and staff:

UVic will continue to seek clarity about the specific impacts of the order as this information becomes available.

The role of universities

I want to emphasize our commitment at UVic to the values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect. Indeed, as I affirmed at our Diversity Forum just last week, these values are central to the very mission of our university.

Universities play an extraordinarily important role in encouraging dialogue on critical social issues, particularly during times of change and conflict.

Universities are places of dialogue, discovery, education, knowledge mobilization and above all, hope.

Diversity, inclusion and mutual respect are the foundation of excellence in pursuing our mission. We are enriched by diversity. We bring together people with a wide range of experiences and perspectives to exchange and implement ideas to make the world a better place.

We welcome and thrive on the diverse people, talents, experiences and cultures brought together on university campuses like ours, right across the country. And so does Canada.

Jamie Cassels, QC
President and Vice-Chancellor

Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services—Oct. 11, 2016

On Oct. 11, UVic President Jamie Cassels delivered two presentations to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services - UVic's Vital Impact: BC's Investment in Ideas and People, and the BC Post-Secondary System Joint Submission: Supports for Student Success.

Recent

President’s Perspectives – articles in The Torch

Each Spring and Autumn, the President publishes an article in the University of Victoria’s Alumni Magazine, The UVic Torch.

Autumn 2016Facing global challenges: Canada’s universities provide optimism amid conflict and crisis

Spring 2016UVic’s new campus plan

Autumn 2015How are things different?

Spring 2015The reach of research

Autumn 2014Education for a diverse economy? We need it all

Spring 2014Into focus: The imperative of defining UVic

Autumn 2013Charting our course

Sexualized violence review delivers interim report—Sept. 28, 2016

Dear colleagues,

Earlier this year, the University of Victoria launched a comprehensive review of our policies and programs related to sexual violence, with the purpose of developing a policy and programs that address this matter more specifically, directly and effectively. We want to make it clear that sexualized violence is unacceptable. We also believe in a collective responsibility to create and foster a safe and respectful environment in which students, faculty and staff can live, work and learn.

As it reaches the midway point of consultations and research, the Working Group on Sexualized Violence Programs and Policy Development is today delivering a progress report on its approach, consultations and research to date. We have had the opportunity to review in detail the report and preliminary recommendations and we are encouraged by the depth and breadth of work that has been done to this point. The report is comprehensive, thoughtful and focused on solutions - the result of significant consultation with the external and internal UVic community. There has already been a high level of engagement in the initiative across campus and we encourage you to take the time to read the report and visit the website for regular updates, and for opportunities to provide feedback.

Access the report (pdf) or visit the project website.

The report offers preliminary recommendations and observations of the Working Group from their work over the past five months. We acknowledge that, while there remains much work to be done, these preliminary recommendations are an important first step in developing a coordinated and consistent approach to education and prevention. We are committed to take action on implementing these recommendations, and we have already agreed to the hiring of a Sexualized Violence Education, Prevention and Response Coordinator and to the development of a comprehensive three-phase approach to education initiatives. In the coming weeks, the Working Group will continue research and consultations with our campus and wider community, and undertake further work in two areas: support for survivors and those who have experienced sexualized violence and related training; and response to and fair adjudication of reports of sexualized violence.

We want to thank Dr. Annalee Lepp (Chair) and members of the Working Group, involving diverse representatives from across campus including students, for their excellent work on this critical initiative. We are encouraged by the progress so far and look forward to receiving the full and final recommendations from the Working Group in January, and to working with all of you through the planning and implementation phases. It is expected that the final policy will be approved in May 2017.

Jamie Cassels QC
President and Vice-Chancellor

Valerie Kuehne
Vice-President Academic and Provost

Faculty and staff welcome back and Campus Update invitation—Sept. 6, 2016

Dear faculty and staff colleagues,

As we begin the new term I want to convey my greetings to all of you, welcome those who are new to the University of Victoria, and thank you for your ongoing commitment to our mission. 

This week we welcome more than 5,000 new graduate and undergraduate students from every province and territory in Canada and 53 countries around the world and that is a wonderful reminder of the importance of the work we do together.

On October 5, I will host my annual President's Campus Update, at which I will review some highlights from the past year, reflect on our progress, and share some thoughts about areas of focus and direction for the coming year. These will include updates on our ongoing efforts to ensure that UVic is positioned as one of Canada's leading research universities, to ensure that the student experience continually improves (including improvements to our programs and policies concerning sexual violence), and to discuss academic directions and their implications for finance and capital.

The Campus Update will also provide an opportunity for me to hear your ideas about how we can further pursue excellence—for example, what are some things we could do better, or are there some exciting new initiatives or programs we could be exploring?

The townhall-style event will be held on Wednesday, October 5 from noon to about 1:15 p.m. in the lobby of the Continuing Studies Building. I hope you will be able to attend.

If there are issues that you feel would be of interest to the wider audience at the Campus Update please let me know in advance at . I can't promise to address every question in the time available, but I will certainly do my best to cover major issues and themes. Your feedback and suggestions are always important to me.

I look forward to hearing from you and our conversation on October 5. In the meantime, I wish you all the best for the coming year.

Jamie

Federal budget points to a critical role for universities: A message to the UVic Community—March 23, 2016

This week's federal budget provides important investments in research, opportunities for youth and First Nations education, protection of the environment, and promotion of social and economic innovation.

It also provides substantial support for Canadian universities, and creates significant potential for the University of Victoria.

The new $2 billion Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund should support us in addressing some key needs in updating our campus research infrastructure, while the $2.6 billion directed to on-reserve education will help to prepare Indigenous students for success in post-secondary education, aligning with a strategic priority at our university.

The $73 million to increase co-op placements and strengthen work-integrated learning plays to a key UVic strength and a critical component of the UVic Edge, and the increases to student financial assistance will help to enhance the access and affordability of post-secondary education for students from underrepresented groups. 

The increased support for research and innovation—$95 million more per year to the granting councils to support discovery research ($30 million each for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; $16 million for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; and $19 million for the Research Support Fund for the indirect costs of research), $800 million for innovation networks and clusters, and $1 billion for clean technology—stands to benefit a research-intensive university like ours that is already actively mobilizing knowledge in critical fields such as oceans, climate, the environment and green technology.

you’ll find additional information about the budget in this highlights package from Universities Canada, which played a key role in advocating for these investments. I'm proud to be serving as the chair of Universities Canada's Research Committee and in that capacity will continue to help build the case for the importance of federal investments in research in securing a prosperous future for all Canadians.

The federal government is showing great trust in the ability of universities to build a strong future for our country. It's now up to us to deliver on this. 

President's statement on sexualized violence—March 18, 2016

p>The University of Victoria is committed to the principles of equal rights and dignity of all persons and to being a place where students, faculty and staff can learn, work and live with mutual respect in a safe community.

However, on our campus, as well as at other universities and in the wider community, sexual and gender-based violence is a significant issue. I want to make it clear that sexual assault and other unwelcome sexual conduct are utterly at odds with our values and are not tolerated.

UVic has policies and practices related to education, prevention and response to sexualized violence. Recent focus on this issue on our campus and beyond, as well as advocacy by student and other groups, have made it clear that we need to do more.

I therefore reported to the Board, and to Senate, and most recently to the University Human Rights Committee last week that we will be reviewing our current policies, procedures and practices. In the time since I made that commitment UVic and other BC post-secondary institutions have been working with the provincial government to collect best practices and develop a framework that provides guidance and an integrated approach for responding to sexualized violence. This has also involved seeking advice regarding the process for the review and development of a university policy that more directly and effectively addresses the issue of sexual and gender-based violence.

Our approaches need to evolve as we learn from our experiences here and best practices elsewhere for effective supports and services for survivors and clearly articulated and fair processes to respond to reports of unacceptable behaviour.

I will share more information soon about the process and terms of reference for the policy review that the university has committed to. The process will involve extensive consultation with students and other campus stakeholders. Our students have a strong voice in this and I welcome and value their contributions to this important topic.

Sexual and gender-based violence affects every member of our campus, either directly or indirectly. As members of the UVic community, all of us have a responsibility to do our part to help create a culture where it is clear that this behavior is universally understood as unacceptable and that reflects the values of inclusion, safety, wellness and respect as the foundations of a healthy university community. As I earlier stated, there will be more information soon on how as a campus community we can continue to work together to address this significant challenge.

Download the statement (pdf)

Looking forward—Jan. 7, 2016

Dear colleagues,

At the beginning of this new term, I’m writing to wish you a happy new year and provide an update as we look forward to 2016.

We begin the new year with a refreshed planning and communications architecture nearing completion. The Enhanced Planning Tools are in the implementation stage. We are ready to approve and release the renewed Campus Plan and the Strategic Research Plan. And you will see more of the Edge as a way of describing our strengths and ambitions to external audiences. Thank you all for your engagement, discussion and suggestions that helped shape and renew our focus for UVic as reflected in these initiatives.

We are developing an Indigenous Academic Plan which will enhance the experience of Indigenous students on campus and build on UVic's commitment to and unique relationship with the First Peoples of Canada. We are also working on the renewal of our strategic plan for internationalization. Again, thank you for your participation in and support for these important initiatives.

Finally, I want to recognize the tremendous work that each of you do every day and voice my appreciation for your efforts. Together we are working with purpose—to create the best possible educational experience for students, to strengthen our dynamic learning and research environment, and to engage and contribute to our wider community. This purpose drives us all, and I hope will continue to inspire us.

I wish everyone a rewarding, joyous new year.

All the best,

Jamie

Jamie Cassels, QC
President and Vice-Chancellor

President's update on TRC report—Oct. 30, 2015

We are drawing inspiration from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report to renew our commitment to contributing to reconciliation with Canada's Indigenous Peoples and working towards the goal of closing the educational achievement gap.

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UVic's response to the refugee crisis

UVic has joined the international effort to ease the mounting crisis for the tens of millions of refugees—more than four million from Syria alone—who have been forced from their homelands because of conflict and insecurity.

We've created a website to share the details about UVic's response to the international refugee crisis—support for more spaces for student refugees at our university, and for language and skills training for newly-arrived refugees in Greater Victoria.

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President's Beyond Borders Fund

The President's Beyond Borders Fund is a new suite of student mobility initiatives that will allow students, who might not otherwise have the opportunity, to engage in rich and meaningful experiential learning opportunities elsewhere in Canada and around the globe.

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