If the class is made mandatory, the associate dean says the faculty would find a way to work the class in
Julianne Beaudin-Herney’s Indigenous Studies petition has been gaining attention across campus since it began in November, but a group of students in the faculty of engineering is paying especially close attention.
Beaudin-Herney’s petition requests that Indigenous Studies become a mandatory class for all students, and seeing as engineering students currently only get one humanities elective, some are concerned about the effect it will have on their program.
“Our faculty crams what at other schools is four classes into two classes,” said Dan Hebert, a third-year engineering student. “We have forty-five classes while most faculties have forty. Do not take one of our three electives away from us.”
David deMontigny, associate dean of the engineering faculty, feels this is not a common sentiment in the faculty.
“First of all, I want people to know that the faculty of engineering is for this petition,” he said, “Currently, Indigenous Studies is not an accepted elective for the engineering faculty, and the dean suggested we make that change even before we heard of the petition. Women’s
and gender studies, religious studies, other classes are accepted.”
Beaudin-Herney thinks those opposed to the petition don’t understand the mutual need for Indigenous Studies.
“The thing is, people take humanities to get an overall view about issues socially,” Beaudin-Herney said. “Societal economics and everything go into this class. It’s an intersection class; there’s feminism in it and there’s things on religious views. I really need the engineers to start understanding.
“We would not exist without every other faculty. They feel like they are on a pedestal, but we need them just as much as they need us.”
The faculty of engineering agrees that Indigenous Studies should, in fact, count as a valid elective for its students.
“It’s there so students can choose to learn about something they’re interested in. I don’t know why Indigenous Studies has been omitted,” deMontigny says.
If Beaudin-Herney’s petition passes, there will be no choice for the engineering students, as their humanities elective would become the mandatory Indigenous Studies 100. While not affecting those graduates who had already received their Iron Ring, the changes would impact undergrads.
“Should the petition be passed, we would have to make an evaluation on how to best integrate Indigenous Studies into the program,” deMontigny said. “… Maybe a course could be taken out, but we might need to make a change to electives.”
Conversation surrounding the petition has also taken place online.
One user on URSU’s website said, “I would rather have electives where I get to pick courses I’m interested in, that I want to learn, and that I think will benefit me further in my career path.” Another said, “This would have to be a very degree-specific requirement as it is simply not applicable in many programs. While I would understand its importance in fields such as education and nursing, for someone in the ‘hard’ sciences such as mathematics, physics, and computer science there is very limited application for native studies.”
Despite this backlash, Beaudin-Herney is steadfast that her petition is necessary.
“Everybody goes out, everyone has to go back home after school. And if we want our kids to grow up in a society where we’re accepted and we understand our neighbour, like religion teaches us, how are we supposed to do that if we keep rejecting the one history of Canada that
has been overlooked for years,” she said.
Regardless of whether the petition is successful, engineering students will be able to take Indigenous Studies as an elective. It is now just a matter of time and signatures to see whether these students will have to lose their one elective to Indigenous Studies, or if the engineering program will just make room for the option.