Indigenization Concerns and Disappointment

In late June, the USFA Executive Committee wrote to President Stoicheff to express concern and disappointment with what it sees happening at the University with respect to the institutional priority of Indigenization. With June being National Indigenous History Month, the gift of an Indigenization Strategy on the horizon and the President’s June 17 “Statement and Action on Racism,” in which he acknowledged that “Racism and discrimination are experienced by members of the University of Saskatchewan community,” the Executive Committee felt there was no better time to share these concerns. 

In his installation address, President Stoicheff issued what the Executive sees a call to action: “And so I ask myself and I ask you, if not us, who? And in the wake of the TRC’s calls to action, and with the country’s 150th anniversary approaching, if not us, who; and if not now, when? That is why I say that this is a university whose future rests on its great potential to inquire, to inform, to innovate—and to indigenize.” However, the experiences of the Association and its members do not show a commitment to action on reconciliation and Indigenization. In fact, the experiences of the Association and its members illustrate inaction and that is undermining our University, its institutional goals and perhaps even President Stoicheff’s presidency. Our academic world can be quite small and the experiences of Indigenous faculty are being widely shared. We are concerned that the actions the President has listed as part of the university’s strategy to “be the best place we can be with and for Indigenous students and their communities” will not be able to fully address what Indigenous faculty experience at this university.

While it had more specific information than what follows, the correspondence to the President described experiences brought to the Executive’s attention, including: 

  • In the last round of bargaining the USFA bargaining team faced regressive counter proposals from the Employer during negotiations for updated terminology in the Non-Discrimination Article of the Collective Agreement. In response to our initial proposal to change “aboriginal” to “Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Métis, Inuit),” the Employer proposed “Indian” instead.
  • Indigenous female faculty describe having to appeal negative decisions for Tenure and/or Promotion at some point in their career and feel discriminated against in terms of their scholarly achievements, which they believe is directly related to their Indigenous identity. 
  • Indigenous faculty members describe experiences in their colleges of silencing, exclusion, discrimination and racism.
  • Retention of Indigenous faculty continues to be a problem and it is not always about money. The USFA is aware of nine who have left the U of S in the last five years. We expect there are more and that many departures could have been avoided.
    – Three left one college citing demeaning interactions with their Dean.
    – One, a Royal Society member, sought transfer to another college as a way to stay at the U of S only to have the Dean refuse to “give-up” a salary line to the other college. 
    – One, with 4 offers from other Canadian Universities, wanted to stay at the U of S but left because the college denied transition from Academic Programming to Teacher-Scholar career path.
    – An Indigenous senior faculty member is leaving the university because of the culture at the college, where Indigenous faculty are “diminished” and “silenced.”
  • In one college, a new Indigenous faculty member was teaching 8 courses and had no terms off and another had their sabbatical denied because the Dean was not in favour of proposed scholarly activity involving Indigenous knowledge development. 

Indigenous faculty have told the Association that “there is racism at this university, within the collegium and within the processes,” and have proposed that the collegium, Indigenous faculty, the Faculty Association, and senior administrators be provided resources over a prolonged period to work together to address the minimization of Indigenous knowledges through collegial processes that value publications and research grants most highly. They also caution that new members are at risk of “burning out” and need mentorship from senior Indigenous faculty, as well as advocacy by the deans.

USFA Chair, Doug Chivers, invited the President to meet with USFA representatives in order to discuss experiences and explore ways to work together on solutions.