by Cassandra Opikokew
The future of the University of Regina’s Aboriginal Student Centre is still unknown. The centre was created in 2006 and is 100 per cent funded by donor funding from the Crown Investments Corporation and CIBC. The donors’ financial commitment to the centre is scheduled to end in 2009.
There are no clear plans about what the centre will do when the funding runs out.
“Right now with our funding, who knows what’s going to come around the corner? I’ve been told that we are guaranteed that there will be an Aboriginal Student Centre at the University of Regina next year but you never know,” said Sabrina Sparvier, the centre’s manager. “Base funding would give us some stability and legitimize our position on campus as a crucial service.”
While the U of R student centre relies completely on donations, at the University of Saskatchewan, the Aboriginal Student Centre is funded by both core university funding and donor funding.
“We have always been core-funded since the centre was created and then we have been able to grow our budget through donor funding,” said Kathleen Makela, manager of the centre. “I think right now the funding is split between both sources about fifty-fifty.”
Makela understands why a lack of core funding for certain university services can send a negative message.
“I think there’s a concern that it seems like it’s not a priority. It’s the whole idea of an institution putting its money where its mouth is.”
At the University of Manitoba, the Aboriginal Student Centre is funded mainly by the university with only an estimated 15 to 20 per cent coming from donors for special events.
“If a university doesn’t fund its centre, I would say that university is not committed to aboriginal education,” said Kali Storm, director of the U of M Aboriginal Student Centre. “You can’t do long-term planning or leadership if you don’t know what’s happening year to year.”
After the SaskatchewanIndianFederatedCollege, now known as the First Nations University of Canada, moved to its new building in 2003, there was a gap in aboriginal-specific services for students registered only through the U of R. The Aboriginal Student Centre was created to fill the gap and provide services for Aboriginal students at both campuses in a culturally supportive environment.
Since then, the university admits it is playing catch-up in providing services for Aboriginal students.
“Yes. I do think we’re a little behind. I think we need to get in step with what other universities are doing,” said Judy Amundson, associate vice-president of student affairs. “I agree that it really demonstrates a university’s commitment to Aboriginal growth. This university will really have to go (toward core funding) to demonstrate its commitment, in my opinion.”
Amundson says the U of R plans to explore providing some base funding. Meanwhile, the university will continue to look for outside funding opportunities, although how much money can be raised is still unknown.
Amundson declined to provide the cost of running the centre annually. A request has been made for the centre’s budget from the university, which was not available at press time.
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