The following statement was read out at the Aboriginal Council meeting by the President of the QNSA, Donna May Kimmaliardjuk.
April 6, 2010
To Aboriginal Council and Principal Woolf:
We at the Queen’s Native Student Association, together with other community users of Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and Aboriginal programming at Queen’s, wish to raise concerns regarding what we see as inappropriate systemic treatment of Aboriginal people and affairs at Queen’s, and to make proposals to Council to help remedy the situation.
We believe that Queen’s University has failed in its fiduciary duty to insure that Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre (FDASC) remains a culturally appropriate Aboriginal-run safe space for Aboriginal people. For nearly two years FDASC has been without either a Director or an Acting Director. Instead, the non-Aboriginal Dean of Student Affairs has unilaterally appointed non-Aboriginal individuals within his own office to manage Four Directions from within the Office of Student Affairs. This has left Four Directions without much-needed leadership for a significant period of time. More importantly, it has meant that what little management FDASC has had has come from a series of non-Aboriginal people with no knowledge of, or training in, the Aboriginal cultures and communities served by Four Directions. Instead, these non-Aboriginal staff have attempted to micro-manage FDASC, making decisions that are culturally inappropriate. When Aboriginal staff at FDASC have attempted to intervene to point out what is problematic about decisions being made, they have been reprimanded and, ultimately, terminated.
The result has been a “chilling effect” on FDASC, which has compromised its mission. Despite Queen’s responsibility as recipient of government funds specifically for Aboriginal programming, FDASC is down to only two staff out of a complement of six. The Centre has been operating recently without a Director, without academic or cultural advisors, and without the services of an Elder-in-Residence. Many of these positions have been open for months without being posted, despite Queen’s fiduciary responsibility to the Federal government, the Provincial government, and to Aboriginal people to provide those services. These funds do not appear to be carried through to the next budget year, meaning monies intended for Aboriginal programming are being absorbed into general budgets. Greater transparency is required in this regard.
As a result, use of FDASC by QNSA and community members has declined precipitously. A recent informal scan of sign-in sheets at FDASC revealed that only seven Aboriginal students continued to use the Centre on a regular basis, and two of those were paid. As a result, it has been discovered that the number of reported visitors to the Centre has been arbitrarily and erroneously inflated to prevent inquiry from Queen’s and Aboriginal Council.
When staffing decisions are made, they are handled by the Dean of Student Affairs without proper consultation with Aboriginal Council. “Consultation” regarding terminations has generally meant that the internal Council Co-Chair has been notified with out explanation. When positions have been filled, the members of the selection committee have been hand-picked by the non-Aboriginal Dean of Student Affairs. In some cases, there has not even been a selection committee; the non-Aboriginal Dean of Student Affairs has merely appointed someone and notified Council. This is inappropriate, and clearly undermines the autonomy and cultural integrity of FDASC, as well as the rights of Council to provide appropriate guidance regarding such important decisions.
Complaints to Aboriginal Council have become viewed as ineffective and problematic. This is because the University has ceased facilitating participation by members of community organizations, as previously done via teleconferencing and other means. The result has been a Council that is increasingly dominated by non-Aboriginal university administrators. Aboriginal staff and students no longer feel that Council will defend their services or their rights.
This situation is compounded by discrimination towards Aboriginal instructors within academic departments. In addition to being woefully under-represented, Aboriginal instructors are frequently denied tenure or tenure-track positions. An instructor who actually successfully ran one of only three Aboriginal-focused academic programs at Queen’s within the Faculty of Education for several years was recently terminated. It was explained that an item previously listed as an “asset” for her position was now a “requirement”, and she was denied an opportunity even to meet the new “requirement”. A further example is that at least one of the “Henry Report Six” was an Aboriginal woman who now teaches at another research university.
These problems are symptomatic of a university that is assimilative rather than integrative in its handling of Aboriginal people, programming, and institutions, despite recommendations from the Ontario MTCU, the federal government, and the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, to name a few.
In order to help Queen’s improve its ability to meet its responsibilities towards Aboriginal people, Aboriginal Council, and the Ontario and federal governments, we propose the following:
1. Four Directions should never be without either a Director or an Acting Director. In the event that there is no Director or the Director is on leave, an Acting Director should be appointed by Aboriginal Council. Directors and Acting Directors should always be Aboriginal people.
2. Queen’s and Aboriginal Council should strive to maintain a full complement of staff at Four Directions at all times. Presently, this includes: Director, Administrative Assistant, Programs, Recruitment, Advisor, Elder-in-Residence. Available positions should be filled in a timely manner. All should be Aboriginal.
3. The Director of FDASC should report to the Director of the Equity Office, as is done at other institutions, such as Concordia University.
4. Positions at Four Directions should be filled by agreement of the Director of Equity and the Co-Chairs of Aboriginal Council upon the recommendation of a selection committee. Members of selection committees for positions at Four Directions should be appointed by Aboriginal Council. A majority of the membership of such committees must be Aboriginal. Appointments should be made jointly by the Director of Equity and the Co-Chairs of Aboriginal Council, and ratified by Aboriginal Council at the next session. There is a precedent for appointments being made jointly by the university and the Council Co-Chairs. Please refer to Aboriginal Council minutes.
5. Terminations of employment at Four Direction must be agreed by both the Dean of Student Affairs, the Director of the Equity Office, and the Co-Chairs of Aboriginal Council.
6. Aboriginal instructors should have an option regarding how they are evaluated for purposes of tenure — with the option to have community work included as part of the evaluation — in a manner similar to that used at Trent University and other institutions.
7. Unspent funds for Aboriginal positions and programming must be reported to Council each year. Unspent external funds for Aboriginal positions and programming must not be lost at the end of the budget year, but remain available for Aboriginal programming at the discretion of Aboriginal Council. Unspent external funds must not be used to subsidize other non-Aboriginal budget items.
8. Non-Aboriginal Queen’s representatives to Aboriginal Council, who sit on Council under the category “Queen’s University representatives” by virtue of their role within the Queen’s administration, should be considered ex-officio non-voting members of Aboriginal Council, in keeping with practices at other institutions.
9. Aboriginal Council should elect a representative to the Board of Trustees, in accordance with the recommendations of the Ontario MTCU and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
10. Dionne Nolan’s application for Director of FDASC should be considered as an internal applicant by the selection committee.
We request that the Principal appoint someone from the Office of the Principal and/or the Office of the Vice Principal (Academic) to meet with representatives named by the QNSA President to draft motions related to these proposals for consideration by Aboriginal Council and Senate. We request that such meetings begin no later than Monday, April 12th. We request that agreed new and revised policy proposals be ready for consideration by Aboriginal Council on May 11th and by Senate on May 26th. The QNSA President may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donna May Kimmaliardjuk