Written by: Amneet Mann, News Editor
Updated September 21, 2018: Dr. Veselin Jungic has reached out to The Peak to indicate that the paraphrase at the end of this article which indicated that “he is convinced the camp’s future on this campus will be secured” was inaccurate. The article has been edited to reflect his quote more accurately.
After running for five consecutive years, concerns regarding the potential discontinuation of SFU’s Academic Summer Camp for Aboriginal Students were raised due to uncertain funding.
The camp has been held annually on the SFU Burnaby campus after being co-founded by the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) and Dr. Veselin Jungic.
At the time that the SFU camp was founded, PIMS was running a similar initiative at UBC. The UBC camp was discontinued following the summer of 2014.
The SFU camp provides advanced mathematics and English support to Indigenous students in grades nine through 11. It is estimated that the camp has had over 125 participants, and according to Jungic in an email interview, “over the five years all students that were accepted to the camp also completed the program.”
“In general, I am very proud with what we have achieved with the camp over the last five years,” wrote Jungic. “For certain we have touched many lives in positive ways [. . .] I believe that by hosting such a camp, Simon Fraser University strengthened its relationship with the Indigenous community.”
Earlier this summer, Jungic announced that the camp would no longer continue in subsequent years due to lack of funding.
Jungic had originally received funding support for the camp from a PromoScience grant from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) which would help fund the camp from 2014–17. Additional funding and support for the initiative was provided by the SFU Office for Aboriginal Peoples, SFU Faculty of Science, SFU Department of Mathematics, PIMS, and the IRMACs Centre.
The camp was hosted in SFU’s IRMACs Centre, which has since been shut down. The Peak reached out to Felix Breden, former executive director of the centre, regarding the situation surrounding the centre’s closure, but did not receive a response by the publication date of this article.
Jungic also identified that key support and funding from SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples was missing.
In an interview with The Peak, Ron Johnston, pro-tem director for the Office for Aboriginal Peoples at SFU, stated that the Office for Aboriginal Peoples did not have a dedicated budget line to fund the camp. In previous years, funding from the office was provided from resources that were left over at year-end in the form of “soft” funding.
“I think that’s probably one of the big challenges with the Aboriginal programs in general is there’s often soft funding and there’s not core funding provided through it.” – Ron Johnston, pro-tem direction for Office for Aboriginal Peoples
Johnston referred to the Walk With Us Report, written by SFU’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (ARC): “One of the things that the ARC has recognized is that soft funding isn’t sustainable funding. This is an example of where something was being soft funded.”
Principle three in the report’s calls to actions states that “SFU needs to find ways to establish core funding for programs or services that have been funded using ‘soft’ or discretionary funds.”
Johnston maintained that the office may have funding remaining at the end of the fiscal year that could be contributed to the continuation of the camp, but that the office was unable to commit to that contribution at the moment.
When The Peak reached out for comment from SFU’s vice-president academic Peter Keller regarding the camp’s discontinuation, Keller stated that he was not aware that the camp was being discontinued.
“Over the years, it’s always been the challenge of somehow clobbering together enough money to run [the camp],” said Keller. “I know that, once again, we are looking for ways to clobber the money together [. . .] I’m working with the community to see how we can continue to fund it.”
“As far as I’m concerned, no decision has been made,” commented Keller.
The Peak reached out to Mary-Catherine Kropinski, chair of SFU’s Department of Mathematics, for comment on the summer camp’s closure. Kropinski indicated that the announcement of the camp’s closing was premature.
“I’m hopeful that something can be arranged to ensure the camp’s continuation,” she wrote.
Jungic has since changed his official comment on the situation of the camp’s discontinuation, stating that he is “convinced that Drs. Keller and Kropinski will do everything what is in their power to secure the continuation of the camp.”