The NSU has yet to recover from the loss of their coordinator in November
As the search for a new coordinator continues, the Native Students Union (NSU) is still facing the repercussions of the University of Victoria Student Society’s (UVSS) decision to fire their coordinator last semester.
On Jan. 9, 2023, the NSU took to Instagram to advertise their search for a new coordinator after their previous coordinator, Peter Underwood, was fired in late November with no notice. The post also included a letter addressed to students, staff, and community members which outlined the situation.
“This has been a difficult time for the council,” reads the statement. “The council does not take this action lightly as it has disrupted a valued community member’s life, disrupted the NSU’s ability to operate and effectively advocate and represent students, [and] disrupted a necessary support for Indigenous students.”
As a student advocacy group under the UVSS, the NSU works to “form community, support each other, and advocate for Indigenous rights and wellbeing,” as stated on their website. They do this by running events and programs, and keeping a space in the SUB for students to connect and feel supported.
The work that the NSU and other advocacy groups do is possible because of the staff that support them, including the council members and coordinators. As outlined in the job listing, which has now closed, the coordinator’s tasks span into every aspect of the advocacy group’s reach. Including but not limited to managing finances, overseeing bylaws, coordinating projects and outreach, and managing the physical space.
Following Underwood’s removal, the UVSS’ excluded managers met with Lauren Mclean, the Firekeeper of the NSU, to discuss their steps moving forward. In an interview with the Martlet, Mclean explained that the UVSS also sent out a general email offering to help where needed. However, the majority of the work still fell on the shoulders of the NSU council.
“It’s pretty evident that without someone in that role, things go down the drain a little bit,” said Mclean. Mclean and the other council members had to work overtime the first week without their coordinator in order to put on three events that they had planned for the NSU to host.
Aside from having to initially work overtime in the last semester, the NSU council has decreased the number of events that they host.
“The coordinator is very much someone who does everything necessary so that the council members can be the faces on the ground, doing that important work and hosting the events,” said Mclean. “Because we no longer have a coordinator, the council has had to pull back and take on a lot of the internal work when we would much rather be working with students.”
At present, the NSU is still able to connect with the community through co-hosting their events with the Office of Indigenous Academic & Community Engagement (IACE). Other tasks that would usually be the coordinator’s job have been delegated among the council members evenly, so that no one has to pick up even more work.
Members of the NSU council are not the only people who have been impacted by this change.The community is also feeling the absence of the NSU’s coordinator.
“I found out [about the coordinator being fired] from him just not being here,” said Madeline Lucier, a UVic student. In recalling her times with the NSU coordinator, she said that Underwood was the reason she felt welcome.
“My Onecard never worked with the door, and he helped me get in here,” said Lucier. “[He] introduced me to the space, introduced me to the whole building and gave me a tour and made me feel very safe.”
The absence of a coordinator at the NSU will likely cause new students to miss out on that type of welcome. However, As Lucier explained, it’s not only new students who are feeling the effects, but the community as a whole. The reduced amount of events is stopping students from forming connections and getting to know each other.
“It almost feels like we’re collateral damage,” said Anagya Durocher, another UVic student. “This big thing happened and [they’re like] ‘Okay, it affected you. Oh, well, you’re just gonna have to figure it out,’ and that’s unfair.”
This gap in services that the student body is experiencing will hopefully not be felt for much longer. Applications for the NSU coordinator position closed on Feb. 1.
In the meantime, the previous coordinator will continue to be missed. In a message to the Martlet, Underwood said “I’m grateful for all the supportive messages and gifts I’ve received from the people I’ve worked with over the years, however I’m not able to comment right now.”
The UVSS has declined to comment on the situation at this time.