A day before the fifth anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, the Council of Ontario Universities has published the results of the Indigenous Faculty Survey under the report Lighting The Fire: Experiences of Indigenous Faculty in Ontario Universities.
This intensive work, an initiative of the OCAV/Reference Group on Aboriginal Education Joint Working Group, took place over two years beginning with a survey shared with Indigenous faculty in the spring of 2019.
Responses from this province-wide survey of Indigenous faculty, enable our continued and collective work. These important and indispensable insights from Indigenous colleagues across the province are required in supporting efforts to prioritize and integrate Indigenous knowledge within our institution, and within the academic community at large.
OCAD University is now reviewing the report to better understand how its findings can align with current initiatives, and investigating the ways that we can continue to make impactful policies that strengthen our commitment to ensuring that Indigenous voices are honoured and included in all academic communities across the province.
OCAD U recognizes the significance and the transformational scope of Indigenous knowledge and we are committed to continuing the work being done at the institution. We are dedicated to working with Indigenous faculty, staff and students in taking steps to ensure that Indigenous ways of knowing, and practices, are represented in the creative and academic life at the university.
I am proud of the progress that we have made over the past several years and look forward to working with OCAD U’s Indigenous faculty and staff to create improvements to our existing governance, policies, services and programs.
An overview of OCAD U’s initiatives
Established in 2008, the Indigenous Education Council (IEC) at OCAD U has been undertaking the important work of addressing issues related to Indigenous education, providing guidance on initiatives and programming, and developing strategies to shape student experience and success. The IEC plays a critical role in overseeing the implementations of Principal 1, Priority 1 of the Academic Plan and the Recommendations from the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Learning.
OCAD U also recognizes the rich community of Indigenous artists, educators, and academic leaders shaping student experience at our institution, along with continuing initiatives that highlight Indigenous pedagogies and representation such as the Indigenous Visual Culture Program, the Graduate Studies Indigenous Innovation Fund, The Uncover/Recover Project in partnership with the Royal Ontario Museum, and the appointment of the Advisor to the Provost, Indigenous Knowledge.
We honour our commitment to supporting Indigenous students by continuing to offer remote student services in response to COVID-19 through our Indigenous Student Centre. Other recent successful student events and supports include the Indigenous Speaker Series, Indigenous Student Pathways Symposium, access to three Indigenous databases, and continued opportunities for scholarships.
This fall, Nadia McLaren was appointed to the new role of Indigenous Community Relations Advocate, contributing to decolonization of OCAD U's practices, policies and structures through a wholistic approach to advocacy and community-building for Indigenous students, faculty and staff.
Additionally, work is under way on the Building Capacity for Research, Equity, Decolonization, Diversity & Inclusion (REDDI) project, which was launched in May 2019.This two-year initiative will create a more supportive and inclusive research environment for all equity-seeking groups.
To help us advance the project’s many objectives, the University recently appointed Dr. Carrianne Leung to the new role of Equity Research Officer, following a hiring process. Her focus will be to support the design and development of a faculty research mentorship program and develop resources and supports for faculty members from underrepresented groups with a particular focus on BIPOC researchers to aid them in reaching their research and career development goals.
Moving forward together
As Vice-President, Academic and Provost of OCAD U, I am dedicated to the important work of Indigenizing our institution, and creating a community that recognizes and respects Indigenous histories, culture, knowledge, and ways of knowing.
I believe that it is pivotal to the success of the University to create and foster safe, supportive and respectful environments that honour the richness of our diversity.
Our progress is reflective of an integrated and wholistic approach, one that acknowledges the whole person, and one that involves continued and active collaboration with members of the Indigenous community across the institution. However, as illuminated by the report, there is still much work to be done.
Dr. Caroline Langill
Vice-President, Academic and Provost