by Jenn VanRiper
Over the last month, the First Nations University of Canada has taken hits from just about every direction.
First the decision was made to pull $5.2 million from funding in the upcoming provincial budget. Not long after, the federal government took $7.3 million in funding despite the long awaited first steps in changing the way the institution is governed. About 200 people were present at the rally held on Feb. 11.
With all this attention focused on FNUniv, the struggle of linguistics students has been overshadowed. Current students were promised they would be able to finish their degrees.
The department is currently part of the FNUniv. Other linguistics courses are offered by the faculties of Arts and Education but no department exists within the University of Regina itself. Today, the future of the linguistics department remains unclear.
The linguistics students put together a petition with 57 signatures, asking to be absorbed by the university. They wanted to present the petition to Vianne Timmons, University of Regina, President, on Feb. 8 but she was unavailable.
Block said the organizing group stopped in on Friday to tell the President they would be there on Monday as well as sending an email confirming the time. However, when they arrived, her secretary told them the President was unavailable.
“We were a little disappointed she chose not to be there at the time,” said Block. Instead the petition was instead presented to Gary Boire, Vice-President of Academics.
The group requested a meeting but Block said they haven’t heard anything back yet.
“Part of what a liberal arts education is about is the breadth of programming at the university. When a department closes, it’s to the detriment to the university,” said Block. Linguistics isn’t the only program under threat.
“Everything is still up in the air. The ideal outcome would be for (FNUniv) to be a first class university under proper administration,” said Dr. Janice Foley, Chair of the Faculty Association.
“If the university has to take over programs there’s cost implications and staff implication,” said Foley.
However, Block said the news on Monday gives them a reason to feel optimistic. Rob Norris, the provincial advanced education minister, spent Family Day with federal Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl discussing how to keep FNUniv afloat.
The results of the discussion Monday between Strahl and Norris is the idea to channel provincial and federal funding through the UofR. The University of Regina would also take over some administration and management roles at the school.
Although this is good news, Block said some students still believe Linguistics should become a department at the UofR to prevent this from happening again in the future.
“There’s a divided opinion. Some of us do think it would be for the better of the department to move over to the UofR simply be it would ensure the long term survival of the program. Other see linguistics as a vital part of the First Nations program,” Block said.
Some more good news came after an almost three hour meeting the night of Tuesday, Feb. 16. Government and university officials decided a working group will recommend possible ways in which FNUniv can partner with the UofR to remain in operation.
While the exact terms of a partnership are up for discussion, it’s likely the UofR would control public funding to FUniv rather than it receiving direct funding from the province.