Case Study: University of Victoria

Background

The University of Victoria (UVic) has been providing dedicated housing for Aboriginal students in partnership with the Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement (IACE) at UVic for a number of years. This has been formalized through a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with IACE. They provide: 
•    Four single student beds (in  Cluster Housing, which consists of four-bed, two-bath townhouses and apartments), 
•    Up to five family housing units (these range in size from one-bedroom to three-bedroom apartments and townhouses) dedicated to couples and students with families. 
Residence Services provides the space and they work together with IACE to prioritize and assign the units. The university has LOAs with a small number of departments on campus in a similar model—they hold a specific amount of beds to a specific date during the summer, and if the beds are not required for the prioritized students, the beds are returned to the general housing inventory.

Challenges & Future Plans

UVic is currently working with IACE and Facilities Management to accommodate both a smudging room, and the ability for students to smudge once or twice a year at move-in or other times. The first requires a dedicated space; the second requires some creative work with the university fire and safety processes. There may be a delay in implementation due to facilities issues.

Additionally, Residence Life and Education is working with student staff (Senior Community Leaders) to provide programming specific to the needs of Aboriginal students. This is in the preliminary stages, but will explore the possibility of a Living Learning Community dedicated to the support and success of Aboriginal students living in residence.

This past academic year, as part of their ongoing training program, UVic’s student leaders had the opportunity to attend Indigenous Cultural Acumen Training (ICAT) provided by the Office of Indigenous Affairs. They hope to provide this training again in the coming year.

The university is currently planning a new student housing project that includes opportunities to action the goals of the 2018-2023 UVic Strategic Framework, which specifies fostering respect and reconciliation and the enhancement of the housing experience for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. In order to fulfill these goals in the project, UVic is planning and consulting on specific considerations for landscaping, the public use of cedar, art installations, and an Indigenous students’ lounge. The hope is to use the building as a way to educate, as well as to acknowledge the Traditional Lands on which the project will reside, and the local Indigenous communities whose relationship with the land continues.

Contact Information

Kathryn MacLeod 
Director, Administrative Services 
250-472-4866 
kdmac@uvic.ca

Summary of Leading Practices for Student Housing for Indigenous Learners and their Families

In 2012 the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training (“the Ministry”) launched the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Policy Framework and Action Plan, which commits to improving outcomes for Indigenous learners.  A key objective of the Policy Framework is that public post-secondary institutions will implement policies, programs and services based on leading practices.

The Ministry has since developed materials on leading practices—including on  advisory councils, gathering places, Indigenous student housing, partnerships, transitions, mentoring,  Indigenous knowledge,  and assessment and benchmarking--that have been reviewed by the B.C. Aboriginal Post-Secondary Coordinators, Indigenous Leadership Roundtable, Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Partners, First Nations Education Steering Committee and Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association.

The following summary is intended to assist faculty, administrators and staff at post-secondary institutions to implement leading practices in student housing for Indigenous learners and their families– whether that be making improvements to existing spaces or establishing new ones. 

  • Put in place priority access housing policies and spaces for Indigenous learners and families.
  • Engage a variety of Indigenous partners (staff, learners, Elders and community) in the design and development of student housing.
  • Consider Indigenous values and current sustainability practices in the housing design process.
  • Provide a day visit space for Elder-in-Residence.
  • Include Indigenous activities and ceremonies in residence activities and promote intercultural programs.
  • Ensure lounges and commons are available for group or individual study. Ensure space is available for health and well-being events and family gatherings.
  • Make resources about Indigenous housing options available well before the start of the school year.