UVic’s Indigenous Governance suspends enrolments after third-party review

Environmental review finds program experience left students “traumatized”

The Human and Social Development building at UVic, where the Indigenous Governance program is housed. Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor

| In a story broken by CBC News, the University of Victoria has suspended enrolment in its Indigenous Governance (IGOV) program, apologizing in the process for a graduate program that has left students “traumatized.”

Instead of accepting new students, a letter from the university obtained by the CBC say that the university will now look at revamping the program with a team of Indigenous scholars, local Elders, and community members.

According to the article, the program currently houses 31 graduate students and 11 more were expected to start this September.

“I do think that suspending enrolment is a fair step,” said a former student in the IGOV program, speaking to the Martlet under the condition of anonymity. They sympathized with students who were scheduled to start in September, saying that the university should have warned them ahead of time or expedited the process to allow them to consider more options.

Ultimately, however, they agreed with the decision.

“What the report said was true,” the former student said. “It is a traumatic and unsafe environment for many so I’m glad another year of students won’t be exposed to that.”

Environmental Review started last year

The decision comes on the heels of an environmental review process that examined the program and produced a report, released to participants on April 19.

The report claims that people felt the program had issues with accommodating LGBTQ+ and two-spirited persons and had issues with discrimination and hyper-masculinity. It also claims many of these concerns are likely already well-known by the university. The former student said this could cause more investigations from the university.  

“I feel like the university has the opportunity now to follow up on that and respond to those complaints in a fact-finding way,” the former student said. “They have a ton of testimony from former students and could check with them about using it to launch an actual investigation or just act on it.”

“It is a traumatic and unsafe environment for many so I’m glad another year of students won’t be exposed to that.”

CBC News obtained a copy of the report, which surmised interviews with 30 current and former students and faculty. The report described the IGOV program “as stressful, in part, because of difficult classroom dynamics caused by a sense of entitlements, competition, and unpredictability.”

“From our interviews,” the report continues, “it was apparent that the emotional and psychological impact of dysfunctional classroom dynamics can be profound.”

Personnel Changes

As per the article, Jeff Kanohalidoh Corntassel, former director of the IGOV program, has stepped away and taken a new position within the Indigenous Studies department, though the CBC reported the decision was not connected to the outcome of the review. 

Dr. Taiaiake Alfred, founding director of the IGOV program, remains as faculty.

This article has been updated to remove information that incorrectly claimed Dr. Charlotte Loppie was to become acting Director of the program. That move took place last year. We sincerely regret the error. 

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