What Can We Do Now


Taking up post-secondary specific calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s (TRC’s) report

One step that post-secondary institutions can take to dismantle colonial structures on campus is to answer the post-secondary-specific calls to action from the TRC’s 2015 report. Two specific calls to action that colleges and universities can look to are:

  • Number 11 — We call upon the federal government to provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education.
  • Number 16 — We call upon post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.

The implementation of recommendation number 16 would go a long way to helping to right the historical wrong of excluding Indigenous languages from higher education as a means of “civilizing” Indigenous people (Wilder, 2013) The fulsome inclusion of these languages would demonstrate to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students that their languages are welcomed in academic spaces, hopefully helping them to feel more included on campus. This potential increase in feelings of inclusion would also contribute to increased positive mental health among Indigenous students, who would be able to see parts of their own histories represented within academia.

Utilize the Intersectionality-Based Policy Analysis (IBPA) framework to analyze current and new campus policies

The IBPA is a policy analysis framework that works to identify the forces and power structures related to a policy that can impact the health wellbeing of particular populations due to their social locations (Hankivsky et al., 2014). It can be applied to any health-related policy or program. Using an analytical framework like the IBPA can help colleges and universities see how campus policies specifically and uniquely impact the mental health of particular student groups (e.g., Black students, queer students, Indigenous students, disabled students). The framework can also help to pinpoint gaps in policies so that corrections can be made to current policies, or new polices can be implemented, to improve the mental health and wellbeing of students on campus.

Assess and create campus policies using the “What’s the Problem Represented to be?” (WPR) approach

In the same way that it is important for us to critically reflect on the practices we use in our individual work, it is important to reflect on the processes we use to create campus policies. The WPR approach was created by Dr. Carol Bacchi, a Professor Emerita at the University of Adelaide, and is intended to help with the examination of policies (Bacchi, 2012). Its purpose is to help identify the root problem or issue one is trying to solve with a policy. Most often used in the realms of public policy and research, the critical questioning it invokes can be translated to the post-secondary context. The method consists of applying the following six questions to a policy that one is appraising or creating:

  1. What’s the ‘problem’ (for example, of ‘problem gamblers’, ‘drug use/abuse’, ‘gender inequality’, ‘domestic violence’, ‘global warming’, ‘sexual harassment’, etc.) represented to be in a specific policy or policy proposal?
  2. What presuppositions or assumptions underpin this representation of the ‘problem’?
  3. How has this representation of the ‘problem’ come about?
  4. What is left unproblematic in this problem representation? Where are the silences? Can the ‘problem’ be thought about differently?
  5. What effects are produced by this representation of the ‘problem’?
  6. How/where has this representation of the ‘problem’ been produced, disseminated and defended? How has it been (or could it be) questioned, disrupted and replaced?

(Source: Bacchi, 2012)

The questions above can assist in clarifying the problem(s) at hand, identify gaps and limitations in how the problem’s being represented, and highlight polices and practices that have enabled the understanding of the problem at hand (Bacchi, 2012).

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