Laurentian prof says retirement his best option as colleagues stressed 'like crazy' amid restructuring
'Whatever Laurentian looks like after this restructuring program, I hope to be involved'
A Laurentian University professor says a memo from the Sudbury, Ont., school helped him make the decision to retire.
The memo asked faculty to provide irrevocable written notice of intention to retire by April 1 — allowing only three to four days to decide.
Laurentian is in a financial crisis and restructuring.
Dr. Charles Ramcharan, 62, said thinking about retirement has been "really weird."
"I had fully thought to not even worry about this until I was 70. I love sitting in my office. I Iove doing what I do. It's a wonderful life."
Ramcharan, who teaches with Laurentian's School of the Environment, plans to become a professor emeritus, which means he would continue to do some work at the university, but not receive a salary.
"I'm not old enough to retire, but I'm taking this option because it's the best option for me and the university, and I do wish that others — who are in a better position to retire — would do the same thing."
It's not known how many faculty members have taken the option.
A report on Laurentian University's restructuring is expected by mid-month.
'Right thing to do'
Ramcharan said becoming an emeritus professor was one of the incentives offered. Under the collective agreement, he'll also be able to take some money out of the pension plan to manage on his own.
He said he has started a company that he thinks will be a successful venture.
"If Laurentian is not paying my salary, then they have more money to pay somebody else, staff and technicians and other professors.
"So for those reasons, I thought it was the right thing to do.
"I can still keep going with my research projects at Laurentian. So in a way, I have the best of both worlds," he said.
"I don't have to teach. If I choose to teach a course, and Laurentian has a course they want taught, and I will teach that course at a much reduced rate. But at least I still get contact with the students and get to have the joy of spreading knowledge"
Ramcharan said it's been a lifelong dream to be a professor.
"And I decided to give it up in two days. And that's very tough," he said, reflecting back.
"I graduated at a time when there were no jobs available. The year I graduated, there were two jobs advertised in all of Canada. It took me a long time, jumping from one university to another, dragging my family around and trying to do the absolute top-level research to get noticed and to get hired. And after all of that, I still ended up having to move a few times and ended up at Laurentian."
He plans to keep his roots in Sudbury.
"We'll be staying in Sudbury and helping to build this place. And with whatever Laurentian looks like after this restructuring program, I hope to be involved and active in helping to rebuild Laurentian as well," he said.
"I have a lot of ideas and I'd like to see them realized and I think they'll be good for Laurentian and to meet the challenges in higher education that are coming."
Lives will be 'torn apart'
But getting through these tough times at Laurentian is proving to be extremely difficult for those intimately involved with the organization.
"The number one thing I hear is that nobody's sleeping. It's rough out here," he said.
"My colleagues are stressed like crazy. They're trying as hard as they can to keep going with their day-to-day work. But it's very difficult. There are going to be lives torn apart and we're just waiting for that to happen."
When the plan for Laurentian is made available mid-month, Ramcharan predicts "it's going to be a real mess."
"Hopefully we'll know who Laurentian is going to be keeping and who they are forced to let go. The next couple of weeks are going to be even more stressful, if it's possible, than the last," he said.
"This university is the third largest employer in the city, so the consequences of this restructuring are going to be quite significant."
With files from Kate Rutherford