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There is a currently a petition circulating at the University of Regina to require Indigenous Studies 100 as a mandatory class in all undergraduate degree programs.
In response to this petition, there seems to be some significant misunderstandings about how this proposal would function.
First off, no student would be forced to take any additional classes beyond the 40 (or in the case of Engineering 46) classes they are currently mandated to take. Practically, this would function by replacing one elective within a student’s program. Further, I personally took a double major in the Faculty of Arts and was still able to take several electives throughout my time at the University of Regina.
Second, some claim this a cash grab by the university. The university isn’t the one proposing the idea and no one is sure what they will do in response to the petition. So what these people are really claiming is that these students are trying to create a cash grab for the university. This would not add any additional costs to a U of R degree. It would simply take away one elective students had and replace it with a core-requirement class.
Third, a lot of people say this would not help them in their future careers. I would like to posit the argument that it would help students in any of program, especially if they are planning on staying in Saskatchewan for their career. In a province with the demographics of Saskatchewan, it will be important for businesspeople, engineers, social workers and teachers to understand Canada’s colonial legacy if we are ever going to decolonize our university, our province, and our country.
Fourth, take a look where this petition is coming from. It’s being proposed by student members of the Indigenous Students’ Association. If you want to know why it’s important to them that an Indigenous Studies class be made mandatory, take the time to ask them. I am sure they can give you countless examples of how they have experienced the effects of structural racism within Saskatchewan and on the University of Regina campus. Having this class will not end that structural racism, but it will begin the process of weakening those structures by including differing narratives within our university community.
Very few non-Aboriginal students at the University of Regina have a solid understanding of the colonial history of our province and our country. This class would be more than a much-needed history lesson, it would also allow students to “thread the needle,” so to speak, and see the effect that history is having on our province and our country today. It will give them marketable skills in any profession they choose to pursue, and most of all it will be a small step in the right direction towards decolonizing our school, our city, our province, and our country.
Please take the time to talk to one of the students collecting signatures and make an effort to sign this petition.
EDIT (13:22 16/02/2012): This article was originally credited to Mike Staines, URSU general manager. The Carillon regrets the misattribution.