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Peter Keller, VP Academics Office: Reinstate SFU's Aboriginal University Transition Programs

Peter Keller, VP Academics Office: Reinstate SFU's Aboriginal University Transition Programs

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This petition has been created by Natalie K. and may not represent the views of the Avaaz community.
Natalie K.
started this petition to
Peter Keller, VP Academics Office
To view the initial 464 signatures to this petition, click here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G73o_gvLOYXHF5TBPJoyJIcp6q3vkgcSjfSAEhao6ks/edit

To the Simon Fraser University administration,

We the undersigned call for your immediate reinstatement of the Aboriginal University Transition Programs (AUTP).

The Aboriginal University Transition Programs fulfill a need that no other program at SFU is designed to fulfill. AUTP offers an Indigenized curriculum that centres Indigenous academic and non‐academic voices. AUTP blends Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing with traditional academics. It takes on the considerable challenge of supporting Indigenous students, many of whom have had adverse experiences in the education system, to gain personal confidence and build skills necessary for academic excellence.

The academic climate produced by an Indigenous‐centred and Indigenous‐only student body allows for a unique dynamic of peer support. AUTP students create a cohort that combats the tensions of being Indigenous in a colonial and colonizing institution. Students carry this Indigenous cohort on with them into SFU, where they continue to rely on the trust and interpersonal connections they developed in the unique AUTP program.

AUTP stands alone in its ability to provide Indigenous‐centred learning, which includes the holistic support detailed above that Indigenous students require. The structure of education as it currently stands at SFU is not equipped to support students who face these kinds of challenges. The fact that SFU would dismiss the crucial work that AUTP is doing, or suggest it can be easily recreated in another setting is, unfortunately, an indication of the administration’s lack of understanding of Indigenous students’ needs.

Simon Fraser University has professed its commitment to reconciliatory measures, most clearly through the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (SFU‐ARC). The mandate of SFU‐ARC is “to facilitate and support broad discussions of how the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be addressed at the University.” SFU‐ARC also claims that it will “consult broadly with the Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal communities both on and off campus” (https://www.sfu.ca/reconciliation/sfu‐arc‐mandate.html). Cutting the AUTP programs in the midst of SFU’s ARC process is an indication that this process is not going in the direction that SFU’s current Indigenous students, faculty, and staff are leading. Considering where we are in 2017, and the responsibility of higher education institutions to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, the timing of SFU’s cut to AUTP is shocking.

SFU can show itself as a leader in creating a sustainable, supportive, and Indigenous‐centred post‐secondary education and meeting its own and TRC’s stated goals. Therefore, we the undersigned call on the SFU administration to consider the following strong recommendations:

1) Immediately reinstate the Aboriginal University Transition Programs for the fall 2017‐18 academic year. Allow AUTP to finish out its final year of University Priority funding.

2) Commit to conducting a review process of the program during the 2017‐18 academic year that will result in a strengthened and revised program to launch in 2018‐19. Build a review team that includes current and former AUTP students, faculty, and staff along with other Indigenous members of SFU, to review the program over the 2017‐18 academic year.

3) To address low enrollment concerns, commit additional resources to the AUTP program to boost recruitment efforts. Currently, enrollment to AUTP is the sole responsibility of the program coordinator. The program coordinator is also tasked with running AUTP in its entirety, from coordinating faculty, ensuring curriculum is on par, and supporting students. SFU should commit an additional recruiter to AUTP for the 2017‐18 academic year.

4) Make tuition for AUTP, and its future incarnation, free.
At University of Michigan, tuition is waived for those who quality for the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver (http://www.michigan.gov/mdcr/0,1607,7‐138‐‐240889‐‐,00.html). On top of an immediate tuition waiver for AUTP, we believe SFU should develop a tuition‐waiver program for all Indigenous students at SFU. This would send a clear message that SFU understands that, as a colonizing institution, it resides on unceded land stolen from the local Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil‐Waututh First Nations. The gesture of free tuition for Indigenous students would communicate that SFU is committed to the redistribution of wealth to Indigenous students and community members.


Sincerely,

To view the initial over 400 signatures to this petition, click here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G73o_gvLOYXHF5TBPJoyJIcp6q3vkgcSjfSAEhao6ks/edit