First Nations University board dissolved
Last Updated: Thursday, February 4, 2010 | 8:49 PM CT
The board of governors of the embattled First Nations University of Canada has been dissolved, following a vote by chiefs of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, which controls the institution.
The vote was taken Thursday at a federation meeting on the Whitecap-Dakota First Nation, south of Saskatoon. Out of 54 chiefs who voted on the resolution, 46 were in favour. The other eight abstained.
In addition, the chiefs approved putting senior administrators of First Nations University on what was described as administrative leave from their duties.
"This is something that our tribal council had advocated," Chief Felix Thomas of the Saskatoon Tribal Council told CBC News. "We thought it was the right decision."Chief Guy Lonechild, head of the FSIN, announced Thursday that the board of First Nations University had been dissolved. (CBC)
Thomas said that Chief Guy Lonechild, head of the FSIN, played a leading role in the move.
Lonechild told reporters that he was thinking of the students.
"At First Nations University, students came first," Lonechild said. "Their concerns and their education is first."
Lonechild noted that on Wednesday a group of students spoke to the FSIN assembly, calling for the university's board to be scrapped. Lonechild said the students also spoke passionately about their teachers at FNUC.
"Those teachers, they said, were like father figures and mother figures," Lonechild said. "We need to put trust in that."
Initial reaction was positive. A student leader in Regina told CBC News that First Nation students were preparing to get together Thursday night to celebrate the decision.
Student voices heard
Many students were in class when they learned of the move.
Mike Dubois was at his desk. He is a fourth-year business student and was one of the students who traveled to the FSIN assembly on Wednesday
"My phone was vibrating off the desk. It was great news. Couldn't have been a better time," Dubois said. "We had just finished talking about the situation, and how .... we weren't going to give up. We were going to continue fighting for what was right for the school."
Dubois added that the efforts of the students seemed to make a difference.
"It just feels really good that our voices can be heard if we use them," he said. "I wish I could get a [course] credit for it."
In dissolving the existing board, it was determined an interim board, made up of non-political leaders and academics, would be established.
The old board had 18 voting and six non-voting members. Of the voting members, 13 were chiefs or active First Nations politicians.
The federation, as well as the provincial and federal governments, are awaiting a consultant's report on the university's governance problems. That is expected on Feb. 18.
An audit is also underway to examine questions raised about spending by administrators.
On Wednesday, saying it no longer had confidence in the board and administration of the institution, the government of Saskatchewan said it would not fund First Nations University after April 1.
That move will deprive the school of $5.2 million, about one-fifth of its annual budget.
There was no word Thursday on the fate of about $7.3 million in federal funding the university gets each year.
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