Recruitment of First Nations students a priority
I offer below a letter I submitted recently for publication in the Gazette.
To the Editor:
A recent article in the Gazette raised issues involving government policy toward First Nations people. I trust most readers will understand that Western respects the right of all in our campus community to speak their minds, that the Gazette is a student newspaper operated by the University Students’ Council, and that the opinions expressed in the Gazette should not be taken as the positions of The University of Western Ontario.
In light of the response to that article, I want to offer my own views with regard to the important role First Nations students play on our campus. Currently, about 150 First Nations students attend Western, each of whom brings a valued perspective to the multi-cultural mix of our campus community. Among our broad range of academic programs, Western’s interdisciplinary First Nations Studies program explores the histories, cultures, languages and contemporary circumstances of First Nations communities – all with a view to enriching our students’ appreciation for and understanding of this important segment of Canadian society.
The Governments of Canada and Ontario have both identified the recruitment of First Nations students to post-secondary education as a priority, and with good reason. The current participation rate of First Nations people is low, and the young population is growing rapidly. Western is eager to join other post-secondary institutions in stepping up to that challenge by increasing significantly the number of First Nations students on our campus. Indeed, this was the first topic of discussion at a recent meeting of the Strategic Planning Task Force.
Western has long been an open, accommodating, tolerant and diverse community that respects and celebrates difference. We need to improve on our recruitment of First Nations students, and I am confident we will do so.