As Native American Heritage Month comes to an end, members of the Native American Council are voicing concerns that the administration doesn’t do enough to support Native students—a contention that administrators dispute.
Council members said that the group’s needs have been largely been ignored and that administrators should do more to recruit Native students. NAC President Lakota Pochedley, CC ’13, said that while the group has a $1,500 budget, it needs more advising support.
“We don’t have anyone specifically working for our needs,” she said. “We need at least one person that works specifically for our group and with our group.”
All of the council’s events, including those for Native American Heritage Month, are planned by students, according to Pochedley.
“It gets to the point where it’s exhausting,” she said.
Administrators, though, say that the University is fully supportive of Native students and has done outreach in an effort to accommodate their needs.
Melinda Aquino, associate dean for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said in an email that her office has helped organize several events for Native students, including the council’s annual Pow Wow and the Native graduation ceremony, which began last year. Aquino added that OMA facilitated a meeting between administrators and Native students last spring to identify and address their concerns, although Noisecat said there’s been no follow-up on this meeting.
Council members have also said that the University is not doing enough to recruit Native students. Columbia College Communications Director Sydney Gross, however, said in an email that there are currently two admissions officers who oversee Native recruitment and outreach.
One of the admissions officers, Gross said, serves as the native outreach coordinator, working closely with the council on outreach initiatives.
“The increased presence of the Native community at Columbia over the last several years is due, in large part, to our collaborative efforts with the Native American Council and current Native students, and we look forward to continuing our partnerships with them,” Gross said.
According to the Office of Planning and Institutional Research, 50 students from Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of General Studies were identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native last fall. A Student Affairs profile of the CC and SEAS class of 2016 shows that 41 students self-identified as Native American, Alaskan Native, or Native Hawaiian.
Still, Tristin Moone, SEAS ’14, said that the University has not delivered on a promises to support Native students.
“It was sold to me that there was a strong Native community here that would support me,” she said. “From that point to matriculation to now, I can definitely see where Columbia can improve.”
Even though the number of Native students at Columbia is increasing, council members said that the University should do more to recruit them. Students do a lot of recruitment themselves, organizing phone-a-thons and letter writing campaigns.
“It’s too much for it to fall on the students,” Pochedley said.
“The bottom line is that Columbia is patting itself on the back for the first time in 200 years for having Native students on campus,” council treasurer Julian Noisecat, CC ’15, said. “But that’s where their initiative stops—with the numbers.”