Incoming interim president at Laurentian University promises transparency
The Sudbury, Ont., university is looking to rebuilt after significant cuts in 2021
Laurentian University will have a new interim president and interim provost starting on Jan. 1, 2023.
Sheila Embleton will take over the interim president role, and Brenda Brouwer will be the interim provost as the Sudbury, Ont., university emerges from more than a year of creditor protection.
In February 2021 Laurentian announced it was insolvent. In April of that year the university cut 76 programs. The cuts ultimately cost 195 people their jobs — 116 of them faculty and 79 staff and senior administrators.
A report from Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk later revealed that years of financial mismanagement, spending on capital projects and a lack of transparency led to the university's insolvency.
Embleton, a linguistics professor who has previously served as vice-president of academics and provost at York University, told CBC News she sees great potential in Laurentian.
She said her first priority, as interim president, will be to bring more transparency to the university.
"I'm a good listener," Embleton said.
"I like to get out and talk to people and hear how they're feeling, what they're thinking. I think in past roles I've been a unifier. I've worked extensively on the senior administrative side, but I've also worked extensively on the faculty association side."
Embleton said Laurentian's "frightening" situation showed the importance of greater transparency at post-secondary institutions.
She said her role will be to "steady the ship basically to get it back on course" now that Laurentian has exited its insolvency proceedings under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).
That will mean developing a new strategic plan for the university, renewing faculty positions, improving enrolment numbers and governance reform.
"We've got a lot of work to do in a short period of time and we are fortunate to have someone with Dr. Embleton's academic pedigree to lead the institution in this important phase of its transformation," said Jeff Bangs, chair of Laurentian's board of governors, in a press release.
"She's a proven leader, someone who has built a reputation for transparency and developing strong relationships, which was paramount to us in the search process."
Brouwer, who will take over as interim provost, is a neuroscience professor and previously worked as the senior advisor for academic innovation and Queen's University's faculty of health sciences.
In a press release, the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) welcomed Embleton and Brouwer to their new roles.
"LUFA looks forward to working with the new interim president and provost to reform Laurentian's governance structures in order to make them more transparent, accountable, and democratic," the press release said.
"The faculty association will also be working with the new administration to develop a rigorous, open, and inclusive hiring process for the university's next president and provost."
Laurentian said it will soon begin the search for a permanent president and provost "guided by a rigorous and transparent framework involving both internal and external stakeholder groups."
With files from Markus Schwabe