The President and Vice-Chancellor of University of Victoria in Canada’s western-most province of British Columbia is as racist as racist can get.
Kevin Hall, a civil engineer by profession and education, was brought to British Columbia’s capital of Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island from the University of Newcastle in Australia.
One of the reasons for his selection was (quoting from the enthusiastic announcement made by the UVic board) “his strong commitment to community engagement and unwavering belief in access to education and equity, diversity and inclusion.”
Good old Kevin Hall, PhD, didn’t disappoint.
What follows is his announcement, verbatim, that must have sent shivers down the spines of those who still believe race should NOT be the great decider in anybody’s academic career.
Here it is:
“Dear members of the university community,
“As identified in our Strategic Framework and Indigenous Plan, UVic has made important commitments toward truth, respect and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, and in particular, the Indigenous students, staff, faculty at UVic and the communities and Nations we live and work alongside.
“I am excited to share with you that, in support of these critical priorities, we are creating a new leadership role at the university. This spring we will be establishing a non-academic associate vice-president Indigenous (AVPI) position to bring an important perspective to decisions made across all areas of the university.
“In recognition of her outstanding contributions as executive director of the Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement (IACE), I have asked Qwul’sih’yah’maht (Robina Thomas) to be the founding associate vice-president Indigenous. I am delighted that she has generously agreed to take on this role for a three-year term. Robina will be starting in her new role in the spring and more information about her initial priorities will be available then. I am grateful that Robina will bring her deep knowledge and experience and her positive energy to shaping this role.
“While still under development, this new position will carry responsibility for furthering UVic’s commitment to truth, respect and reconciliation with the development of a strategy that integrates Indigenous cultures, histories, beliefs and ways of being and knowing across all aspects of the university’s mission. We have benefited immensely from the work of IACE in providing leadership across our education and engagement initiatives. We now look toward the development of a university-wide approach to ensuring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action are our priority. Moving this important work forward will require challenging conversations about what we value and prioritize as an institution, and how we contribute to reconciliation in a good way.
“In order to facilitate the position’s cross-divisional responsibilities, the AVPI will be an integral member of the leadership team. Robina will report to me and she will be located in the Office of the President.
“IACE will report to the AVPI and Robina will share information about the IACE leadership transition with our community soon.
“ABOUT ROBINA Qwul’sih’yah’maht (Robina Thomas) is a member of Lyackson First Nation and has Snuy’ney’muxw ancestry through her grandmother Lavina Wyse and Sto:lo ancestry through her grandfather Charles Prest.
“Robina was the inaugural director and executive director of the Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement and is an associate professor with a faculty position in the School of Social Work (she will maintain her faculty appointment while AVPI). Robina started her career at UVic as a visiting lecturer in 1998 and accepted a tenure track position in 2001. Her research has focused extensively on Indigenous women and children, residential schools, storytelling, Indigenous community engagement and anti-colonial/anti-racist practices as a way of life.
“Robina’s accomplishments in her current role as the executive director of IACE and special advisor to the president have included:
Leading the establishment of the Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement and facilitating the release of the university’s first Indigenous Plan;
Re-establishing the Indigenous Cultural Acumen Training program and piloting a program to pay Elders as Specialized Instructors;
Creating space for Indigenous representation on numerous university committees; and
Co-chairing the National Building Reconciliation Forum.
“We are extremely privileged and honoured that Robina has chosen to work within our UVic community. I look forward to working with, and learning from, her in the years to come. Please join me in thanking Robina for her continued leadership and in celebrating this important step toward honouring the commitments we have made to truth, respect, reconciliation and to decolonizing our institution.
“Kevin Hall, PhD
“President and Vice-Chancellor”
Thus spake the person whose responsibility it is (or should be) to make sure that everyone is treated solely on the basis of their ability and, thus, achievement.
Lest anyone thinks that this shockingly patronising approach will make any of the people under Qwul’sih’yah’maht’s (a.k.a. Robina Thomas) tutelage instant academics with credentials reaching the ears of any of the Nobel Price committees, a word of caution: it won’t.
Science just doesn’t work this way. Of course, many in the so-called humanitarian fields will beg to differ, except: these people have yet to contribute anything that’s positive to the societies they live in.
This University’s calling card reads: “A multitude of the wise is the health of the world.” To show how advanced they are, they even had it translated into Latin: “Multitudo sapientium sanitas orbis.”
As if that was not enough, UVic has a motto in Hebrew, too: “יְהִי אוֹר,” meaning, “Let there be light.”
Whoever has noticed a call for giving an advantage to a race-based group over groups of other races, raise your hands.
While the university features a number of what it calls “Indigenous programs,” based on the claim that the academe ought to serve those who surround it, it still does not, in any shape or form, justify the establishment of this new office. Judging by the list set out in the university President’s announcement, it is a move that the university may end up helping politically.
It’s not politics, though, it’s politicking at its worst. You can bet your last dollar that UVic plans to use this new (as they call it) initiative to call for more government grants. Taxpayers are going to pay for a politically correct civil engineer’s dream.