Sudbury·Audio

Students continue fight to save original film, theatre program at Thorneloe University

Students at Thorneloe University in Sudbury are still fighting to save the Theatre and Motion Picture Arts Program, saying they're being denied the education they paid for.

Laurentian University's senate overruled program closure in May, but faculty has been laid off

As part of their efforts to save their program, Thorneloe University film students have created a video, asking people to sign their petition. (Submitted by Caroline Kan-Hai)

Students at Thorneloe University in Sudbury continue to fight to save the Theatre and Motion Picture Arts Program, saying they're being denied the education they paid for.

Thorneloe, which is one of Laurentian's federated universities, announced it was cancelling the program back in April, for financial reasons. However that decision was overruled weeks later by Laurentian's senate, which said Thorneloe did not have the authority to suspend programs.

"We were relieved, we were so happy, we thought everything was going to be OK. And what happened next was even more scary," said motion picture arts student Caroline Kan-Hai. 

Thorneloe has since laid off the program's faculty, forcing Laurentian to suspend admissions to the program, and leaving students already enrolled without access to the courses they expected to take. 

'In no way equivalent'

Film and theatre students have been told by Laurentian they will still be able to complete their degrees by taking other courses. 

Kan-Hai says the courses now being offered to students are "in no way equivalent" to the original program. She says she enrolled in the program because of the hands-on film production courses. She says the "equivalent" courses offered by the university are theory-based. 

Film student Caroline Kan-Hai says the "equivalent" courses being offered by Laurentian will not offer the same kind of education as the film courses previously offered at Thorneloe. (Submitted by Caroline Kan-Hai)

Laurentian's interim vice-president academic and provost, Serge Demers, acknowledged that "equivalent does not mean equal, but at the same time it's a course that permits the student to move forward in their program."

Demers said the university is also looking into courses the students could take through other universities, that would more closely mirror the original courses. 

"We are working actively to try to make the situation as tenable for everyone as possible," Demers said. 

Kan-Hai says simply offering students a path to graduate is not enough. 

"Their responsibility to the community and to students is to ensure that anybody that earns a university degree is ensured with the appropriate knowledge to go out after university and function in their field. And unfortunately that's not what they're doing," Kan-Hai said. 

Who is responsible?

Thorneloe's president, John Gibaut says the responsibility of providing an equivalent program to the film and theatre students falls to Laurentian. 

"The programs are housed at Thorneloe, and we pay for them, but they're actually programs of the faculty of arts. The faculty of arts has that responsibility, and I think it's been really, really responsible in fulfilling it," Gibaut said. 

"Say for instance one of our professors had retired or moved to another job, that would have changed the program. It wouldn't have exactly been the same program. And I think we're in a parallel situation there now."  

John Gibaut is the president of Thorneloe University. (Supplied)

Demers said he believes where exactly responsibility lies is a bit more unclear. 

"We're trying to figure out what those lines are, actually, and where the line draws between Thorneloe, and where the line draws with Laurentian," Demers said. 

Demers said the faculty of arts will continue to update its list of equivalent courses for students.

But Kan-Hai and others want to see the original program reinstated. A group of students has started an online petition, and has also written a letter to Ross Romano, minister of colleges and universities, asking the province to intervene. 

Back in April, Thorneloe University announced it was cancelling its theatre and motion picture arts program. Then, the program appeared to be saved after a vote by Laurentian University's senate. But admissions have since been suspended, and the faculty laid off, leaving students already in the program worried about what kind of education they'll be receiving. The CBC's Sarah MacMillan joined us to explain it all. 6:41

About the Author

Sarah MacMillan is a reporter with CBC Sudbury. She previously worked with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca

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