Sudbury

Laurentian students navigate difficult transition as classes start

When classes begin at Laurentian University on Wednesday, it will be a very different experience for some students.

Some students continue their studies at Laurentian as programs cut

In April, Sudbury's Laurentian University cut more than 30 programs, and more than 100 faculty and staff members were terminated. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

When classes begin at Laurentian University on Wednesday, it will be a very different experience for some students.

The Sudbury university announced it had entered insolvency proceedings on Feb. 1 under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), which allows it to operate while dealing with its financial situation.

In April, Laurentian cut more than 30 programs, and more than 100 faculty and staff members were terminated. 

"In the future, when I show my degree is from Laurentian, the comments already have been, 'Oh, you still go to Laurentian. I thought it closed, I thought it's bankrupt,'" said Denice Zhuang, a distance student from Ottawa who studied gerontology and Indigenous studies at Laurentian.

Before Laurentian entered its insolvency proceedings, the Indigenous Studies program was offered by the University of Sudbury, and gerontology was offered by Huntington University. Both institutions were part of the Laurentian federation. 

As part of its insolvency proceedings Laurentian cut its ties with the federated universities -- which also included Thorneloe University. The Indigenous studies program was cut, but Huntington transferred its gerontology program to Laurentian.

Denice Zhuang is a distance student from Ottawa who studied gerontology and Indigenous studies at Laurentian. Both program were affected by cuts earlier this year. (Supplied by Denice Zhuang)

Zhuang said she will complete her fourth and final year at Laurentian because she has a small number of credits left, and it would be too difficult for her to transfer at another institution at this juncture. But said the gerontology program was "completely destroyed."

The professors who developed the gerontology course content at Huntington have not transferred to Laurentian.

"So if I have a question, for example, about end of life palliative care options or dementia studies, my professor could be someone from kinesiology, or from French, or from English," Zhuang said. "So how can I ask for advice? How can I feel what I'm studying is respected?"

Allison Desormeaux has been in Laurentian's labour studies program for 10 years, studying part-time while working a full-time job. That program was cut in April.

Desormeaux said she will be able to complete her degree at Laurentian, but had to choose a different degree option with fewer credits.

While she can complete her studies, she said her options for electives are now limited to areas outside of her comfort zone and expertise.

"I'm not going to have a lot of choice," she said. "There's no women's studies, which is where my interest is. I'm going to be limited to things like geography, nursing and some education stuff. Stuff that I have absolutely no interest in and that really doesn't pertain to what I'm studying."

"This is not the way I wanted to graduate," Desormeaux added.

Transition to a new academic year less difficult for some

Alex Cimino is a fourth-year student in Laurentian's sports administration program. (Submitted by Alex Cimino)

For other students, the transition to a new academic year has been less difficult.

Alex Cimino, a fourth-year student in Laurentian's sports administration program, said he feels for other students, but his program was not affected by the cuts in the same way.

"I just have to say that I'm very fortunate and I feel terrible for everyone that has got to go through that," he said. "I've had friends that have moved because of this. And, you know, it's shocking to hear that our school has gone to this point."

Cimino said that while his major was spared from the cuts, some of his electives, such as Italian studies, were cut.

"We were here before the insolvency and I think there's still great profs here that provide a great education to be proud of," Cimino said. "I think you should still be proud no matter what university you go to."

For Lily Plante, a first-year student in computer science, the impact of Laurentian's insolvency proceedings are less apparent.

"I don't have experience of what it was like before, so I guess I'm not going to be as disappointed as I would be if I was here before," she said. "And my degree isn't affected since I'm just starting out, so I guess I'm not as worried as older students."

Plante said everyone she has met on campus has been welcoming so far.

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