Message from Vianne Timmons, President of the University of Regina
These have been a difficult few weeks for many of us at the University of Regina – but even more so for our colleagues at First Nations University of Canada. During that time, there has been a lot of uncertainty, and there has been a lot of sadness as well. I have felt it myself on campus and in the larger community, and I have heard it in the words of many of you – particularly in the dialogue sessions held in mid-February at the University of Regina and the First Nations University campuses in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
But with that sadness, I have seen a lot of hope and pride – and that’s something we have to remember and build on in the weeks and months ahead. We have all seen First Nations University students doing everything they can to save their beloved institution – meeting with their leaders, holding public demonstrations, and serving as a strong reminder that students must be the first consideration in any academic or administrative decision. To me, that has been so inspiring.
As many of you know, whenever I speak on campus or in the larger community, I always emphasize that “The University of Regina is YOUR university” – and I mean that with all my heart. We all have an active interest in this institution and in all of its Federated Colleges, which have been such an important part of our University for decades. It has been so heartening for me to see your pride of place and your support for your First Nations University colleagues.
I am proud of your support for First Nations University faculty, staff and students, and proud of the respectful discussion that has taken place about this funding crisis. Respectful discussion and engagement are the keys to moving forward – and that’s the spirit in which this challenge will be resolved.
Respectful discussion really came to the fore in the dialogue sessions for faculty and staff which I attended. These sessions were important to me, because while there has been a lot of focus in the past weeks on meeting the educational needs of our students, we must not lose sight of the needs of faculty and staff. Students are our reason for being here, but we must also listen to our faculty and staff because you serve our students so well as you carry out our academic mission.
At those dialogue sessions, I heard your concerns and got a better understanding of how the First Nations University funding crisis is affecting you and others you know – academically, professionally, and personally. That’s what I wanted to hear. For me and for the University as a whole to be an informed, sensitive partner who is advocating for and helping find solutions for First Nations education in the province, I need the best information available – information from you.
I want that dialogue to continue, so if you weren’t able to voice your comments at any of the dialogue sessions, I encourage you to let me know your thoughts. What is important to you? What must we all pay attention to? What can’t we lose sight of? What should we work toward? What shouldn’t we work toward?
Respectful engagement not only characterized the mid-February dialogue sessions with faculty and staff, but was also a key component of the partner meetings held around the same time between the federal and provincial governments, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), and the University of Regina. From these discussions emerged the idea of a new partnership model with First Nations University, and this was a ray of hope for First Nations education in the province at what seemed like a very dark time.
A working group involving representatives from both governments, FSIN, the University of Regina and First Nations University of Canada has been formed to develop this new partnership model for First Nations University. This new model must be developed, approved and implemented by early March – an indication both of the urgency and the commitment of everyone involved to find a solution.
What form will the new partnership model for First Nations University take? What form CAN it take? Regardless of the structure it might take, the University of Regina is committed to the principle that forms the foundation of First Nations University of Canada – that First Nations people are the ones to define how their education will be provided – and it is important that any new partnership model takes that principle into account.
That’s why respectful engagement between the partners is so crucial – to find a financial and governance model that is acceptable to all. We must work respectfully toward and remain open to a solution that helps move us forward together, and preserves and builds on the First Nations culture, learning, and pride upon which First Nations University of Canada was founded.
I’m optimistic that the working group will find such a solution and begin implementing it in the coming weeks. I will update this message as required over that time in order to keep you up to date on the situation.