Tuesday, May 30, 2006


FNUC's Business is Your Business - UPDATED

Now that I have my facts straight, let's hope that Morley can do the same.
It appears that the First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) is opting to take the easy way out of its current governance mess. FNUC Administrators are "claiming" that the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) has been paternalistic and colonial in asking for changes - with no proof given. It discusses what would happen if FNUC left AUCC and suggests there are other accrediting bodies it could join. They proudly list on their - almost useless (you would think an institute of higher learning would have a half-decent website. This one is embarassing) - website, that they have been AUCC members since 1994.

There is something so wrong about that statement. If the AUCC is such a bad organization why does it have over 90 members plus the Ontario College of Art and Design and the most recent university in Ontario - University of Ontario Institute of Technology knocking at the door to become members. There are no national Canadian accrediting bodies that Morley Watson can turn to. This is simply smoke and mirrors.

The University of Regina would be wise to monitor this situation. Currently, FNUC students are receiving U of R degrees and the institution will want to maintain the integrity, quality and value of their papers, if and when, FNCC decides to adopt their own standards. The students are the true loser in this game. The whole Board should be forced to resign. They are a provincial and national embarrassment.

I have said it before and I will say it again, FNUC is over governed.

The FNUC Board has budgeted more than $600,000 for itself this year, an amount four times higher than Saskatchewan's other two university boards combined. Documents obtained by the Saskatchewan News Network show that the 32-member FNUC board spent $407,116 last year and has approved a budget of $612,957 for itself this year.

FNUC has a total student population of about 1,200. The U of S, with more than 19,000 students, spent $87,800 on its board last year and The University of Regina, with 13,000 students, has a board budget of just over $70,000.

Why does an institution with only 1,200 students need a 32 member Board? My first thought was that that number is outrageous, however, a closer look and one can see how that number is achieved - not justifiably. The SIFC Act specifies the composition and responsibilities of the board of governors. Two members of the board are appointed directly by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN). Other members (partners) are appointed by the senate, Agency/Tribal Councils of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan universities, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Saskatchewan Learning, First Nations University of Canada faculty and the First Nations University of Canada Students' Association.

There is no doubt that FNUC is a complex venture and there is a need for many partners to be around the decision making table, however, nothing rationale can get decided with a 32 member board for such a small institution. It isn't like the institution is experiencing tremendous enrolment growth (flat), embarking on massive capital projects, leading cutting edge scientific research and development. Nope, they are offering students mainly a liberal arts education - spare the National School of Dental Therapy. Plus, FNUC has a Senate to presumably over govern some more.

A closer look at some of their counterparts provides some valuable insight into other governance models. Mc Gill University, with close to 33,000 students, has a Board comprised of 28 members. However, unlike FNUC, at least one-third of their representatives are elected officials from campus - students, faculty, senators, etc.

The University of Toronto, the countries most populous higher learning institution, only has a Governing Council of 50. They also do not have a Senate and have close to 70,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

The FNUC's board expenses are probably the most troubling aspect of this entire story. The board's expense budget, per capita, is far and away the largest in the country. There is a total of $96,000 for travel and honoraria. Any Board of Governors need to provide stipend and travel for its members, but one has to wonder why a board made of almost exclusively Saskatchewan residents meeting ONLY in Saskatchewan require that much money.

It is, however, not just the travel costs, but rather the improper coding of administrative spending that requires explanation. Some FNUC board expenses are items most other institutions wouldn't include in the board budget, but rather in central administration. For example, an ordered forensic audit is budgeted for $320,000 and also $32,000 is budgeted for their presidential search.

There is, however, one large unjustifiable expense. There is an annual $125,000 "management fee" paid to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations for political lobbying and connecting with other institutions. This is an utter shame. What is the FISN lobbying for? Doesn't the board connect with the University of Saskatchewan and Regina representatives when they attend board meetings? Plus, shouldn't the FISN lobby on behalf of the countries only Aboriginal institution because they believe in the model not to pay the bills? That is a disgrace and only emblematic of larger problems within First Nations governance models.

Serving as a member of a board - as I once did - at an institute of higher learning, you do not do this to embark on a money making venture. Individuals do it out of commitment to the institution, not greed. This story is shameful and requires more than a forensic audit.

I am all for self-government, BUT it comes with responsibilities. FNUC owes their students a quality education and one that is accredited. Right now, the bloated Board seems more interested in playing games than actually delivering a quality post-secondary education. FNUC receives a significant portion of its funds from either the provincial or federal government. As a taxpayer, Morley Watson is accountable for that money to everyone, not just his merry group of friends and relatives.

On a factual matter AUCC is not an accreditation body, nor does it claim to be one. It is a membership organization. Canada has no national accreditation body. Many universities choose to look for a provincial charter and membership in AUCC as proof of quality for the purposes of credit transfer, etc., but that is their choice.
FNUC should be stripped of its accreditation.
Speaking out as a Firt Nations person, the leadership of FNUC is nothing but a farce and total embarrassment to First Nations people of Canada. As an educated, professional First Nations person, they don't represent me!!
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