Terminated Laurentian University faculty group demands jobs and programs back
The Sudbury university exited its insolvency proceedings on Nov. 28
A group that represents some terminated faculty members at Laurentian University wants the institution to reinstate their jobs, along with programs it cut last year.
The Terminated Faculty Committee represents about 17 of the more than 100 Laurentian faculty members who were fired earlier this year after the Sudbury university cut 76 programs in April 2021.
Eduardo Galiano-Riveros, a former physics professor at Laurentian and committee member, said now that Laurentian has exited its insolvency proceedings, members of the group are demanding they get their jobs and programs back.
"We believe that it should be a reversible choice," he said.
"Obviously, the province will have to step in financially to put assets in place such that the university can then reinstate the faculty positions and the programs that have been lost."
Galiano-Riveros admitted, however, that they are likely to "face some headwinds" on that demand.
The committee has also demanded faculty members who have moved on and would not return to Laurentian should receive their full severance pay, instead of the 14 to 24 cents on the dollar that Laurentian has promised its creditors.
A public inquiry can certainly shift focus and potentially look closer into the impropriety, if not the illegality of some of the things that happened.- Eduardo Galiono-Riveros
On Sept. 14, Laurentian's creditors — which included fired faculty members banks such as RBC, construction companies and government agencies — voted in favour of a plan of arrangement for the university.
That plan set out the roadmap for Laurentian to rebuild once it exited its insolvency proceedings, which happened on Nov. 28.
The vote, in favour of the plan, meant the majority of creditors agreed to get between 14 per cent and 24 per cent of the money they were owed once Laurentian exited creditor protection. Those terms were set out in the plan of arrangement.
Beyond a special report
The committee's third and final demand is that the province start an inquiry into Laurentian's financial collapse.
Galiano-Riveros said an inquiry would go beyond a special report on Laurentian from Ontario's auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, which outlined the events and decisions that led to the university's financial problems.
"She was doing a value-for-money audit rather than a criminal investigation," he said.
"A public inquiry can certainly shift focus and potentially look closer into the impropriety, if not the illegality of some of the things that happened."
The committee has also asked that the Law Society of Ontario look at the conduct of Laurentian's legal counsel, which benefited from the more than $30 million in fees for private-sector financial advisers and lawyers as of September 2022, due to Laurentian's insolvency proceedings.
"So there's a number of things that the auditor general did not get into but hinted that only a full public inquiry can look into, in sharper focus," Galiano-Riveros said.
New financial reporting
In an email to CBC News, Ministry of Colleges and Universities spokesperson James Tinajero said the province is implementing a reporting and risk framework to identify institutions, such as Laurentian, that may be experiencing financial strain.
"This new reporting structure is designed to strengthen the ministry's oversight and ensure proactive reporting before an institution reaches a point of financial distress," Tinajero said.
But the ministry did not address questions about the idea of a public inquiry into Laurentian's financial issues.
- Legislation needed to spare others from Laurentian's fate: Canadian Association of University Teachers
In a statement, Laurentian board chair Jeff Bangs said the university is focused on the future, now that it has exited its insolvency proceedings.
"Now that we have exited CCAA [Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act], we are focused on the road ahead and look forward to building a sustainable future for Laurentian, our students and community," Bangs said.