'Universities don't become different just by wishing for it': Eve Tuck on the challenge of changing academia

For Eve Tuck, Indigenization in post-secondary institutions is less about what words or mandates universities adopt, and more about who and how they are hire. "Universities don't become different just by wishing for it or by saying this is our new mandate," said Tuck, an Associate Professor of Critical Race and Indigenous Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.
Eve Tuck, an Associate Professor of Critical Race and Indigenous Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto said Indigenous people need to grow their own faculty. (Red Works)
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Originally published February 25, 2018.

For Eve Tuck, Indigenization in post-secondary institutions is less about what words or mandates universities adopt, and more about who and how they are hired.

"Universities don't become different just by wishing for it or by saying this is our new mandate," said Tuck, an Associate Professor of Critical Race and Indigenous Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.

"University administrators say 'Indigenization' and what they mean is, simply bringing more Indigenous people into the same structures, into the same buildings without much thought about what universities can learn from Indigenous communities."

Tuck, who is Unangax and is an enrolled member of the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, Alaska said may universities are focused on hiring more Indigenous faculty. But, she stressed there are a lot of misconceptions about when hiring begins for Indigenous scholars, where in their careers a relationship with post-secondary institutions begins and ways that it might begin much earlier than the typical point of hiring.

"Pre-tenure and post-tenure supports for Indigenous faculty are really important," as are establishing formal routes for mentorship and having the opportunity to mentor the next generation of scholars, she explained.

"So hiring a person and then also setting aside funding for that person to hire a post-doctorate to come and work with them." 

Tuck suggested that one tangible way universities can attract Indigenous faculty is something called 'cluster hires' or hiring a number of people at the same time so they come in together. Then, repeating the process in the following years.

"So that there's a number of Indigenous colleagues who are hired in one year and that they are involved in hiring a next group of colleagues the following year and then the next ones another year."

'Growing their community'

That way, she said, the choice is taken out of the hands of a non-Indigenous hiring committee and placed in the hands of Indigenous people.

"People are involved in growing their own community and hiring their colleagues."

Tuck added that a lot of colonial harm has been done under the banner of good science and that post-secondary institutions have a long way to go.

"I'm not trying to say 'No, no don't talk about that,'" she said. "I am wanting for us to be able to talk about this in ways that reveal how much work there is for universities to do, that this is not going to be a quick and easy fix."