First Nations U facing censure by teachers’ assocation

Sask. school would have difficulties attracting and keeping staff, hosting conferences

The First Nations University of Canada is facing censure by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, who are set to vote on the motion at a council meeting next week.

Censure means the association’s members would be called on to refuse appointments at the university, decline invitations to speak or participate in academic conferences hosted by the university, and turn down any distinctions it offers. If censure is approved, the Saskatchewan-based school could have serious difficulties both attracting and retaining staff and hosting academic conferences.

The vote comes after several years of turmoil at the university. In 2005, according to CAUT, “Morley Watson, a vice-chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and then-chair of the university’s board of governors, suspended several senior administrators, seized the university’s central computers and copied the hard drive with all faculty and student records, and ordered administrative staff out of their offices.”

As a result, the FSIN appointed an All-Chiefs task force to recommend a new governance model for the university. Their November 2005 report recommended a smaller and more depoliticized board that would “respect and incorporate First Nations culture and governance traditions, ensure governance effectiveness and efficiency, incorporate high quality governance standards, enable the linkage with and participation of the University’s ownership and improve accountability.”

James Turk, CAUT exective director, says the governance recommendations were never implemented and problems persist.

According to an association press release, ongoing problems have led to the dismissal or resignation of the president, two vice-presidents, deans of two campuses, more than one-third of the academic staff and about half of the administrative, professional and technical staff. It also says that university enrollment has dropped along with research and special project revenue.

Censure was last imposed on Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1979.