New Aboriginal students policy

The U of C has taken its first steps toward fully accepting and integrating Aboriginal students by being western Canada’s second university to pass a Aboriginal Student Policy.

The policy states: “A declaration of support for Aboriginal students and their full participation in the intellectual and cultural life of the university would be a clear expression of commitment to a learning-centred university responding to ‘the needs, aspirations, and futures’ of Aboriginal students and communities.”

Alberta’s Aboriginal population–the fastest growing population in Canada–has risen 22 per cent since the 1996 census, making up 6.6 per cent of the population of Alberta. The U of C’s Aboriginal population comes to 1.5 per cent–a little short of the 2.5 per cent provincial post secondary average.

In addition to the rising Aboriginal population, an influx of students is expected from Mount Royal College, who has gone from having an Aboriginal population of 70 students in 1993, to over 500 in 2003.

“With the Aboriginal population on the rise, the university needs to be prepared to receive Aboriginal students within its doors,” said Director of The Native Centre Shawna Cunningham. “That means seeking equitable access and ensuring that the doors remain open. We are not talking about lowering standards, but we want equitable access strategies.”

Along with creating awareness and equitable access and participation, the Aboriginal Student Policy’s objectives include: an increase in admission, retention and completion rates of qualified Aboriginal students; the creation of culturally appropriate support services; the promotion of teaching Aboriginal perspectives; and the development of international indigenous relations.

“This document is the first step toward creating awareness and getting commitment from the university,” said Cunningham. “It is a document of trust between the U of C and the Aboriginal community as a whole.”

The policy was approved by the General Faculties Council, on Thu., Mar. 27, but remains to be implemented.

“The next step is to get a steering committee off the ground,” said Cunningham. “A procedural document will be set up under the committee to implement the policy and make it a living document.

“The ultimate goal is an increase in the Aboriginal student population on campus, and an increase in the success of aboriginal students within their degree programs,” she added.

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