Funding glitch threatens Inuit studies program

Two-for-one deal can’t work with departure of seasoned instructor


Administrators at Nunavut Arctic College are scrambling this week to fix a financial glitch that threatens to put the college’s popular Inuit studies program into a coma for at least a year.

Since 1996, the college has run the two-year Inuit studies program with the same staff and budget used for its longstanding interpreter-translator program.

But this two-for-the-price-of-one arrangement doesn’t work anymore. With the recent departure of seasoned instructor Alexina Kublu, the program now needs money for extra staff. Kublu, one of two main instructors, left the college to work as a full-time justice of the peace.

So even though no funds have been cut from the program, the college is no longer able to do more with less. The program’s budget is about $290,000 a year, enough to run an interpreter-translator program next year, but not enough to run Inuit studies at the same time.

“The budget for the program is the same this year as it was last year. It’s just that with the staffing changes, the person who is there feels it will be more difficult to offer both programs,” said Malcolm Clendenning, Nunavut Arctic College’s president.

Clendenning said that since the college’s business plan and budget were set last fall, it may not now be possible to find extra money.

“We’re definitely not looking at standing down Inuit studies. It’s just that this happened so quickly that we weren’t able to rearrange things so that we could secure additional moneys that were needed,” Clendenning said.

He added, however, that he has asked staff at Iqaluit’s Nunatta campus to see if they can find creative ways of solving the problem.

“I have asked the campus to come back to me with some different options that we could look at, and that’s what I’m looking at right now,” he said.

Since 1996, the popular and high-profile Inuit studies program – called the traditional knowledge and culture option – has offered a variety of courses on Inuit language, culture and history. Many of those courses were offered to interpreter-translator students.

They range from wilderness travel and survival to anthropology and archaeology to skin preparation and Inuit clothing design.

After one year, students get a certificate in traditional knowledge and culture, and after two years, a diploma.

The program has sponsored numerous publications, including oral histories, a series of elders’ recollections, and Inuktitut word lists for interpreters and translators.

It has also formed partnerships with various Canadian and European universities to conduct research and student exchanges.

Clendenning said the last thing he wants is for the program to die, and that for the long-term, it should become “a major department of the college.”

“I’d like to see the language and culture program that we’re offering in Iqaluit right now, with the interpreter programming and the Inuit studies program, expanded over time. I’d like to have a larger department, which would help us implement a strategy for incorporating Inuit language and culture in all of our programs.”

The problem, however, is finding a stable and predictable source of funding.

Clendenning said that won’t happen until after the college finishes reviewing its funding systems and produces a new funding formula – which won’t likely be done until this fall.

For now, however, it looks as if the Inuit studies program will lie in a state of suspended animation for at least a year, and may not be able to accept new students until the fall of 2004.

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