Sudbury

Laurentian University president weighs in as restructuring enters 2nd phase

In a letter published Monday, Laurentian University President Robert Haché is promising more communication and collaboration during the second stage of the school's restructuring process.

As Sudbury, Ont. university overhauls operations, president says stakeholders will now be more involved

Laurentian University President Robert Haché says he is looking forward "to engaging with our stakeholders ... to identify and implement best practices for the future." (Laurentian University)

In a letter published Monday, Laurentian University President Robert Haché is promising more communication and collaboration during the second stage of the school's restructuring process.

The letter comes after weeks of complaints from students, faculty and community members who say they feel like they've been left in the dark.

The Sudbury, Ont. university became insolvent on Feb. 1, and since then, has been undergoing restructuring under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). Under the process, organizations are allowed to operate while straightening out their finances. 

"I am pleased to say that the next phase of the CCAA process will allow for an increase in engagement with a wider variety of stakeholders as well as increased opportunities for communication at every stage," Haché stated.

"I look forward to engaging with our stakeholders specifically through a review of all operational and governance matters within the University in order to identify and implement best practices for the future."

CBC News has requested an interview with Haché, and is waiting on a response.

Last month, the school began a series of deep cuts to staff and programs, and on the weekend a judge gave it the go-ahead to continue to restructure under creditor protection. Laurentian also has been approved to separate from three federated universities, in a move it says will save it millions.

Laurentian is now in its second phase of the CCAA process, which involves consultations with stakeholders and establishing a process to assess creditors' claims. The school will also be developing a plan that details how it will emerge from CCAA protection and attain financial stability.

Haché's most recent statement addresses questions about the federated universities, restructuring academic programs and the midwifery program.

He notes the termination of the federated universities agreement is "only with respect to the contracts for the delivery of courses and programs through the federated universities and the payment to the federated universities for the delivery of those programs and courses."

'Not sustainable'

Haché says the cost to Laurentian for the delivery of courses and programs through the federated universities was $7.7 million last year.

"That is simply not sustainable in our current environment. Laurentian has the ability and the capacity to teach all students within the restructured environment, and will do so in future."

In terms of the cuts to academic programs, Haché says the process for determining program closures can be found on page 44 of its affadavit, filed April 21.

"These details provide the guiding principles that were used in determining which programs were no longer sustainable and identified for closure. Factors such as student-to-credit ratio, historical enrolment, program appeal, and overall cost of delivery were considered."

Haché states the "Midwifery and Sage-femme programs have been a point of pride for Laurentian University", but the financial costs to run the programs "could not adequately be met by funding received from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and the Ministry of Health."

"Midwifery is an expensive program to run (relative to other programs), is capped at 30 students (total across both French and English programs), and as a result, it is no longer possible for Laurentian to subsidize the operations of this program."

Haché adds the third phase of CCAA restructuring will begin as the Fall 2021 term kicks off and "will include the implementation of the new academic structure."

Auditor general intervention

Meanwhile, following a recent motion tabled at Queen's Park by NDP MP France Gélinas, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk will conduct a financial analysis of Laurentian University's activities for the 2010 to 2020 period.

Gélinas says she believes that the Auditor General's intervention will shed light on the factors that prompted Laurentian University to declare itself insolvent.

More details about this financial analysis should be known in the coming weeks, she notes.

With files from Radio-Canada

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