Laurentian University terminates federation agreements with Huntington, Thorneloe and University of Sudbury
President Robert Haché says Laurentian has the capacity to teach all students in a more efficient manner
Laurentian University is starting to change before the community's eyes weeks before a final report on the restructuring of the insolvent post-secondary institution is finalized.
Laurentian President Robert Haché has announced the termination of the federated university relationship.
Faculty, staff and students of Huntington and Thorneloe Universities and the University of Sudbury are calling the decision a betrayal.
The universities offered courses in core areas such as religious studies, Indigenous studies, theatre and other arts and humanities courses.
Students would enroll in Laurentian-offered courses outside these core studies to obtain their degrees.
The termination of the agreement comes into effect on May 1, 2021.
Huntington and the University of Sudbury have already announced the cancellation of all spring classes.
In a news release, Haché writes: "Termination of the federation agreements was necessary in order to ensure that millions of dollars paid by Laurentian to the federated universities each year relating to the delivery of programs and courses will remain within Laurentian, as part of its path to future financial sustainability. Laurentian has the capacity and the faculty required to teach all students in a more efficient delivery model. These steps allow Laurentian to focus its resources on programs and courses that students have demonstrated they are interested in taking."
The release explains that the termination relates only to the delivery of academic programs and courses and that each of the federated universities will continue to own and operate their own buildings and facilities.
Haché is advising students enrolled in programs offered by the federated universities to contact liaison services.
The move comes in the middle of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act mediation looking at ways to put the insolvent university back on stable financial ground.
Laurentian Faculty Association says news is "devastating"
"The news that the Laurentian University administration is unilaterally tearing up its agreements with these important federated universities is devastating," says Fabrice Colin, President of the Laurentian University Faculty Association. "Along with the federated universities, the Laurentian University Faculty Association has committed itself to the CCAA mediation process and the restructuring of the university. The Laurentian administration's decision to terminate these
agreements in the middle of the CCAA process makes us question whether they share this commitment."
Colin blames the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano, for failing to come to the rescue of the institution and engage in the CCAA process.
He also points the finger at poor governance practices of Laurentian's senior administration over several years.
Colin says he doesn't really know what the future holds for the federated universities and whether they'll be able to exist on their own, especially if Laurentian offers similar programming, as President Haché says it intends to do.
Faculty, staff, students and community members joined in condemning the move in a massive zoom meeting following the news on April 2nd, many who choked up while speaking and wiped away tears.
One of the speakers was Josée Turcotte, a professor of psychology at Laurentian and a member of the university's Senate.
She wondered whether the federated universities could seek their funding directly from the province and operate independently of Laurentian, a question that no one seemed to be able to answer.
Senate meeting on further cuts
She also called President Haché a tyrant for making the move, but she also, as a member of Laurentian's senate, warned that more cuts are coming. A full day is set aside April 6th to discuss more cuts, which she feels the Senate is powerless to stop.
"We don't want to do that. We don't feel like doing that. We want to keep everybody, like, from my point of view, they should find other solutions. But the Senate is not there to find those other solutions. So I'm just saying, guys, from the other universities speak up, try to get the government to send you money directly," she urged.
The uncertainty and potential loss of the long-standing Indigenous Studies program is causing a lot of outrage.
Megan Lalonde is a teaching assistant in Women and Gender Studies program. As an Anishnaabe woman and a graduate of the Indigenous Studies program, she says the education provided to her by the federated schools has been a haven, and described it as life-saving.
"Laurentian University is attempting to portray programs like Indigenous Studies and Women's Studies as an unpopular program of financial liability," she says. "This careless decision, as well, makes it very evident to me that Laurentian's commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to Indigenous people as well as their tricultural mandate was nothing more than a smokescreen, especially considering Indigenous Studies at Laurentian is the second oldest of its kind in North America and so many amazing thinkers and minds have been carried through that program."
Call for resignation of Laurentian's president
Reuben Roth is a professor in the Workplace and Labour Studies Program at Laurentian. He mustered a call for the resignation of President Robert Haché.
"He's doing us incredible damage, and I for one, none of us, want to stand by and see him decimate the university," says Roth. " We have something wonderful here. We have something beautiful here."
Roth believes the financial problems started with the province underfunding the university over the years. He thinks the progressive conservative government may come in at the end of the CCAA process when it will be cheaper to bail out the institution.
Ministry of Colleges and Universities says situation "deeply concerning"
The Ministry of Colleges and Universities responded in a statement.
"It is deeply concerning that Laurentian University has found itself in a situation where such drastic and immediate action is needed to ensure its long-term sustainability. We remain focused on ensuring that Laurentian University students can continue their studies without interruption. That is why the ministry has appointed a Special Advisor, Alan Harrison, to provide independent advice and recommendations to the Minister of Colleges and Universities regarding the financial situation at Laurentian. The scope of the Special Advisor's mandate will extend beyond financial analysis, and include an examination of other factors underlying the situation at Laurentian."
Harrison's report is due to be finished by mid-April.
A final report on the re-structuring is scheduled for the end of month.