Dear University of British Columbia Students’ Union Board of Directors:
We acknowledge that this battle for safety and opportunity has been fought on this land by the Syilx Okanagan Nation for hundreds of years since the first arrival of white invaders to their territory. We give thanks to the Syilx Okanagan Nation for allowing us to live on their lands as visitors. It is not enough to give a pre-prepared bare minimum land acknowledgement, you must respect the People of this land. Your words mean little if your actions oppose them. As it stands, the land acknowledgements given by the SUO do not reflect the lack of respect given to Indigenous people on this campus on stolen Syilx Okanagan Land.
In this open letter, the leadership of the Indigenous Student Council (ISC) will outline our concerns with regard to the University of British Columbia Students’ Union Okanagan (SUO) systemic neglect of the Indigenous students on this campus.
Our first concern is the continuous neglect of the maintenance of the ISC’s status as a Resource Centre. It has come to the attention of the leadership of the ISC that for at least the last three academic years the SUO has neglected the Indigenous Student Council and our status as a Resource Centre on this campus. By refusing to acknowledge us as a legitimate and necessary resource centre at the same caliber as its other Resource Centres: the Women’s Resource Centre, PrideResource Centre and Peer Support Network at UBCO, the SUO has shown their lack of concern and support for the Indigenous student population.The ISC and our leadership has not been invited to official meetings between the SUO VicePresident Internal and the other Resource Centres in order to advocate for ourselves as a necessary Resource Centre. According to UBCSUO Bylaw Eighty-Nine(89) b. it is the responsibility of the Vice President Internal to “oversee, coordinate and liaise with the Resource Centres and delegate related responsibilities, as required, to the appropriate staff members.” This is not to solely blame the previous VP Internals, as UBCSUO Bylaw Eighty-Eight (88) y. states that it is the responsibility of the President to “ensure that the rules outlined in the Constitution, Bylaws, and Policies are considered their first priority.” As outlined in their own governance documents, the SUO as a whole and as individual leaders have failed to meet their responsibilities as a Board as well as neglected the necessary relationship between themselves and the Indigenous Student Council as a Resource Centre.
Our second concern is the allocation of physical space to the Resource Centres. Unlike the other established resource centres, the ISC has not been given ample opportunity to host a physical space of any capacity over at least the last four years. According to UBCSUO bylaw two (2) s. “‘Resource Centre’ shall mean an advocacy focused student group with a common interest that has been granted student space and funding by the Student Union.” Utilizing their own definition of resource centre, it is clear that they have neglected the ISC as a proper resource centre through the refusal to grant ISC student space.While we acknowledge the struggle for physical space facing all of the resource centres, the neglect to offer even a shared physical space with the other resource centres further highlights the SUO’s general disregard for the ISC and in turn the Indigenous student population of this campus. By using the ISC as a resource centre in name and funding alone, the SUO has benefited from the public perception of apparent support of Indigenous students while neglecting their responsibilities to us in private. Support of Indigenous students is an issue that goes beyond money, it is at its core about relationships and respect.
Our third concern is the lack of compensation for labour that leaders of the ISC have put toward the resource centre in the last year. It came to our attention at the end of the2019-2020 academic year that the coordinators of the other three established resource centres have been compensated two-hundred (200) dollars per month for at least the last academic year. While we are not arguing that the other resource centre coordinators are undeserving of their compensation, we are arguing the fact that leaders in the ISC have done a comparable amount of work to maintain and strengthen our community without compensation from the SUO. ISC leadership has not been contacted regarding resource centre responsibilities, coordinator contracts nor coordinator compensation since the current leadership has been engaged in the community in 2016 and compensation was introduced in 2019, this is unacceptable. This grievance is not driven by greed but by the principle of equity. We only ask to be offered the same level of respect as our fellow resource centre coordinators, and an aspect of that is respect for our time and labour via appropriate equitable compensation.
Our fourth concern is to do with SUO President Ali Poostizadeh’s 2020 SUO of UBC Future Plan. The first key issue we have with the 2020 SUO of UBCO Future Plan is the sudden inclusion of a new Indigenous Students’ Representative to be ratified at the2020 SUO Annual General Meeting (AGM). While the ISC could potentially support the notion of an Indigenous Students’ Representative on the SUO Board of Directors, our core issue with this in its current form is the utter lack of consultation and respect toward Indigenous student leaders who are doing advocacy work outside of the SUO. In the Future Plan as it stands currently, SUO President has no plan for consultation of Indigenous students between his presentation to the Board which took place on July 30th of 2020 and the planned adoption of the Indigenous Students’ Representative at the AGM in November of 2020. In the Future Plan, Poostizadeh states, “As a student funded organization, it is essential that the SUO be directly reflective of its members in order to ensure that they feel their voice is adequately represented.” We as the ISC ask, how can our voices be adequately represented if we are not consulted when decisions are being made for our community? It is inappropriate of the Board to use the optics of having an Indigenous Students’ Representative position structured and implemented without proper and informed consultation of and collaboration with Indigenous student leaders.
The final concern is also grounded in Poostizadeh’s SUO of UBC 2020 Future Plan and its clear dismissal of the ISC as a legitimate and existing resource centre. In the section titled “Diversity,” Poostizadeh states: “In order to support all of our members and ensure they have a home on campus, the SUO should establish a fourth resource centre to better service these students.” The three established resource centres that Poostizadeh refers to and proposes dedicated office space for in his SUO of UBC 2020 Future plan are: the Pride Resource Centre, Women’s Resource Centre and Peer Support Network.The president clearly fails to acknowledge the existence of an already established fourth resource centre, the ISC. While the ISC does acknowledge the diversity of the students at UBCO, we find it inappropriate for the SUO to move forward with establishing a new resource centre for other marginalized groups when they have shown a lack of care for the resource centres that already exist. It is poor practice to disregard already established entities in favour of creating new ones simply to have your name associated with new innovation rather than neglect.
We as the leadership of the Indigenous Student Council put forth the following requests to the UBCSUO Board of Directors:
- A public acknowledgement of the neglect and wrongdoing against the ISC and in turn the Indigenous student population on behalf of the Board of Directors of the UBCSUO to be posted to the official UBCSUO social media platforms as well as the official UBCSUO website;
- A guarantee to prioritize the allocation of physical space to the ISC upon the reopening of UBCO campus;
- A personal apology to the Indigenous student leaders that have not been compensated equitably for their labour;
- A guarantee to collaborate with the ISC in the immediate structuring of equitable compensation for the labour of ISC leadership;
- A guarantee to properly consult Indigenous student leaders regarding Indigenous Students’ Representative position structure and adoption;
- An immediate halt to all plans for a fifth resource centre until the time comes that the ISC along with the other established resource centres feel that they are properly supported and respected by the SUO.
Indigenous Student Council Co Coordinator
Indigenous Student Council Co Coordinator
Indigenous Student Council Co Coordinator
Indigenous Student Council Leader