Laurentian University President Robert Haché’s recent claim that the Companies Creditors’ Arrangement Act (CCAA) process provides a constructive format to engage with stakeholders is not reflected in reality. Instead, the costly CCAA process reduces students, faculty, and staff to the status of creditors, from which the university seeks to protect itself. The CCAA is designed for private-sector businesses not public institutions and both the Laurentian administration and provincial government are hoping that, by exploiting the CCAA process, they can restructure the university by cutting programs, jobs, and research projects.
“If Laurentian wanted to engage in a restructuring process that treated members of the university community as respected stakeholders, they could have done so,” said Fabrice Colin, President of the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA). “That would have meant being transparent about the financial challenges Laurentian has been facing and using existing language in our collective agreement that helps address scenarios in which the university faces significant financial challenges. That would have meant working with other campus stakeholders to call on the provincial government for financial support, as other universities have done when faced with similar challenges.”
Instead, the university administration made the unprecedented, inappropriate, and costly decision to seek CCAA protection. In this process, faculty, staff, and students are placed in an untenable position where the university is trying to force them to take cuts to programs, jobs, and research. Students, faculty, and staff should not have to pay the price for the poor governance practices of an underfunded public institution.
Haché references the community that has come together to support Laurentian University, but he completely ignores the fact that this community has condemned his administration and condemned the CCAA process.
Haché argues the university needs to be “restructured” but what he really means is that there are going to be cuts: cuts to valuable programs, cuts to important research initiatives, and cuts to good jobs that contribute to the Sudbury economy. Since 2017, 30 faculty positions have been cut. How many more good jobs will now be lost?
Haché says this will make the university more “sustainable,” however there is nothing unsustainable about Laurentian’s operations. For years, the Laurentian University Faculty Association has repeatedly raised concerns about the secretive and non-consultative approach the university administration has taken to making important financial decisions. These ill-considered decisions compounded by the underfunding of postsecondary education in Ontario are what have brought Laurentian University to this moment of crisis. That is why the provincial government should be stepping in to provide the funding necessary to secure the Laurentian’s future.
“This government’s inaction poses a direct threat to jobs and the ability for students to graduate from programs of their choice,” said Rahul Sapra, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “It is a shame that, as Minister of Colleges and Universities and as an MPP from Northern Ontario, Ross Romano is standing on the sidelines and watching a public university being dismantled. Minister Romano has the responsibility and the resources to make things right. If he won’t take action, we need a Minister of Colleges and Universities who will.”
Together, academic staff, students, and concerned community members from Greater Sudbury and across Northern Ontario will continue fighting to secure the future of Laurentian University. They intend to bring that campaign right to Romano’s front door.
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