Aboriginal students at U of S fight to save programs

The University of Saskatchewan's Indigenous Students' Council is concerned over the school's first draft of a report outling its future. They say the Vision 2025: From Spirit to Action document aims to amalgamate First Nations degree programs like SUNTEP and ITEP with the mainstream.

Students do not want First Nation's degree programs amalgamated into the mainstream.

Aboriginal students do not like what they see in the University of Saskatchewan's Vision 2025: From Spirit to Action report.

The University recently released a first draft of the document outlining where it wants to be, and what changes it would like to implement by 2025.

The U of S's Indigenous Students' Council has taken issue with the forward-looking, seven page document because they said it lacks input from First Nation students.

Members of the aboriginal student population held a meeting with Ilene Bush-Vishniac, President of the University of Saskatchewan, on Thursday night.

Before the [SUNTEP] started, there were no aboriginal teachers,- Ashley Shaw

Students told Bush-Vishniac that they want more of the unique needs of First Nations students to be reflected in the university's long-term vision. In particular, many of the students expressed their disapproval of plans to amalgamate aboriginal degree programs into the mainstream. 

Ashley Shaw is the President of the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education​ Program (SUNTEP) Student Council. She said First Nations people have flourished in the program since the 80s thanks to the special support it offers students, including smaller class sizes.

"Before the program started, there were no aboriginal teachers, like, there were very little. Because of the SUNTEP program we were able to create more teachers," Shaw said.

Attendees of the meeting were invited to ask questions about the Vision 2025 report directly to U of S President Ilene Bush-Vishniac. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

However, U of S President Bush-Vishniac said that if the First Nations' population keeps growing like it is, it is possible that by 2050, 80 per cent of the university's students will self-identify as First Nations. Bush-Vishniac uses this figure to support her argument that special programming for First Nations may be rendered obsolete in the coming decades. 

"It is not logical to have two programs...everyone ought to have the ITEP-like program, or the SUNTEP-like program," Bush-Vishniac said.

The U of S says it will consider the concerns of students before finishing the official draft of the Vision 2025: From Spirit to Action report.

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