Funding for Laurentian's graduate students in limbo, group says

Graduate students at Laurentian University say they’ve been left waiting for funding, as the school deals with a financial crisis.

Graduate students are leaning on one another to continue studies as communication with admin grinds to halt

Meghan Ward, a graduate student at Laurentian University, says there has been a lack of communication between students and the school's leadership since they announced being under creditor protection. (Supplied by Meghan Ward)

Graduate students at Laurentian University say they've been left waiting for funding as the school deals with a financial crisis.

In a news release Friday, Laurentian's Graduate Students Association (GSA) said graduate-level research funding has been "reduced to special authorization purchases" which has increased the costs, and delayed deliveries in some cases.

This prevents students from shipping test samples to labs, for example, or having documents sent to them from other schools.

Meghan Ward, a graduate student in Biology, said the lack of communication from the school's administration has been stressful.

"It's nothing short of terrifying," she said. "Just a complete, complete lack of being able to really pursue your studies."

Especially concerning for Ward was the disconnect between early messages out of the school's leadership, and her current reality.

A mainstay on campus in recent years has been Research Week, where graduate and Ph.D students get a chance to pitch their research to the community, and get feedback from a wide range of people.

"That was completely erased from the curriculum this year," she said. "And that, for grad students, is huge."

Laurentian University declared financial insolvency on Feb. 1. (Erik White/CBC)

Some of the students have rallied around one another, staging their own research week. Others have benefited from supervisors paying out of pocket for the students' work. 

"I think most grad students don't have $10 or $15,000 in savings to pull on just in case we don't get our funding," she said.

"Depending on how much your rent is...over the summer to pay rent without having any income, for some students, I think it will just be impossible to pay those fees and could result in a total lack of continuing on with their program or having to pause their program."

Adam Kirkwood, a graduate student also in Biology at Laurentian, says the waiting has been stressful.

"We really haven't been given much reassurance or information as to what comes past April 30th."

Laurentian University has until that date to provide a restructuring plan to the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

"A lot of us need to be able to plan our field work or plan our lab work; We have to do this well ahead of time cause we need to order supplies, we need to book flights," he said.

As teaching assistants and research assistants graduate students get an income, which Kirkwood says most depend on to pay rent and other expenses over the summer months, while they're also doing their research.

"The uncertainty and the stress makes it hard to focus ... it makes it very hard to stay motivated."

With files from Angela Gemmill


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