Decolonization of academics not happening on campus

Mount Allison has yet to make a formal collective effort towards the decolonization and indigenization of campus courses.

The term ‘course,’ in this case, must be understood in two ways: as individual courses or as the combination of courses that make up degree programs. Instructors have the authority to decide the scope of each of their individual courses, while the university senate decides the overall curriculum of degree programs.

Senate has the authority to review the academic calendar in the effort of campus-wide decolonization and indigenization, but has yet to approach the topic.

“I can tell you without doubt that there has been no specific process to look at decolonizing the curriculum run by the Senate,” said Jeff Ollerhead, interim provost and vice-president academic and research, who has been on the Senate for ten years.

He went on to say that decolonizing and indigenizing campus is an ongoing process. This process has been prompted by the efforts of current faculty, faculty retreats, new faculty coming to Mt. A and guests who are brought to campus to speak on this issue, he said.

Fourth-year student Samantha Peña said indigenizing course material is only one part of a much broader issue.

Andreas Fobes/Argosy
Andreas Fobes/Argosy

“We need a more diverse campus not only in terms of faculty, but also the administration that works with the students, especially when we are talking about decolonization and indigenization,” Peña said. “You have to give the space and voice to the people who go through the experiences.”

Tasia Alexopoulos, professor of women’s and gender studies, said it was important to ask what it means to decolonize the university and who is being held accountable for this effort.

“What is most important is that students who have experience with oppression and colonialism are consulted, respected and heard in this process,” Alexopoulos said. “In class when they say that something is racist and would like to address it, the professor should be expected to take that seriously because the student has the experience, not the white settler.”

Spencer Isaac, a Mi’kmaq student, said that when he first arrived to Mt. A he discovered that a lot students and faculty knew nothing about First Nations, residential schools and Canada’s colonial history.

“The onus has been on us to bring these matters to the class. I think that if we didn’t bring the First Nations perspective into the courses, the status quo would remain,” said Isaac, a Canadian studies student.

Isaac is thankful that a lot of professors are trying to educate themselves about First Nations matters, but he stresses that the process has been slow and often uncomfortable. Furthermore, he said there is still a lot more to learn if the university is to become a decolonized space.

“When we leave the reserve, it is an entirely different world,” said Isaac. “When I first got here, it was an entirely different place. This is their world.”

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