TORONTO, April 16, 2021 — Only days after watching Laurentian University collapse without raising a finger, Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano is now steamrolling ahead with additional detrimental changes to Ontario’s university system. With no warning or consultation, Romano announced that the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) would no longer be able to offer degrees as part of Lakehead or Laurentian University and would instead become a fully autonomous degree-granting institution.
The move follows years of mismanagement of Ontario’s postsecondary system by Romano and Ford. The government’s stewardship of Ontario’s universities has been so deficient that both the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and the Canadian Union of Public Employees have now called for Romano’s resignation.
“Minister Romano is giving a master class in how not to run a public university system,” said Rahul Sapra, President of OCUFA. “It is simply irresponsible to make decisions of this magnitude overnight with no consultation. If this Minister believed that his vision for Ontario universities had merit, he would be discussing his ideas publicly. Instead, he develops ideas in secret, behind closed doors, and rushes to implement these flawed proposals. This Minister has consistently let us down, so we have called for his resignation.”
Since 2005, NOSM has been providing medical education to support better health outcomes in Northern Ontario, especially in remote rural and Indigenous communities. Working with and granting degrees from both Lakehead and Laurentian universities, NOSM ensured that students enrolled at either institution could attain a medical education and receive a degree from a highly regarded Ontario university.
“We are both shocked and disappointed by this news,” said Brian Ross from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine Faculty and Staff Association—OPSEU Local 677. “One of the strengths of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine has been its integration with Lakehead and Laurentian universities. With Laurentian’s collapse and the announcement that our relationship with Lakehead is being severed, we are deeply concerned about the future of NOSM and medical education in Northern Ontario.”
Romano’s announcement was also a surprise to faculty at Lakehead University, who work closely with their colleagues at NOSM.
“First, Minister Romano allows Laurentian to collapse and now this? One has to wonder what his priorities are. He certainly doesn’t seem to care about students or the quality of education,” said Gautam Das, President of the Lakehead University Faculty Association. “We have spent years working with our colleagues at NOSM to develop programs and integrated educational opportunities that meet the needs of Northern Ontarians. Romano just threw all that work out the window.”
This is the latest in a string of unilateral, harmful, and controversial decisions made by Minister Romano and the Ford government:
- Repealing large parts of the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, legislation that provided better working conditions and labour protections for thousands of precariously employed campus workers.
- A substantial tuition fee cut and freeze without providing universities with a corresponding increase in funding.
- Cutting the Université de l’Ontario Français, only to reverse course due to public outrage and the federal government’s efforts to save the institution.
- Massive cuts to student financial assistance, making education more expensive and increasing student debt.
- Imposing the unlawful Student Choice Initiative on universities in an effort to silence student voices, which has since been overturned by the courts.
- Introducing a reckless new funding formula that will put more than $3 billion of postsecondary education funding at risk and fundamentally reshape Ontario’s postsecondary education system.
- Allowing Canada Christian College to call itself a “university” and to award degrees in arts and sciences, despite its questionable academic credentials and the xenophobic views of its founder and President.
- Squandering public funds on micro-credentials, which truncate the knowledge provided by university degrees and serve to de-skill students and workers—undermining their career prospects and future earnings.
- Allowing universities to re-open in advance of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Allowing Laurentian University to collapse despite knowing about its financial issues since as early as fall 2018.
- Consistently refusing to meet or consult with OCUFA and most other major stakeholders in the postsecondary education sector.
Ross Romano and the Ford government have lost the confidence of many working and learning at Ontario’s universities. It is time for Romano to step aside and make room for a new Minister who can competently and effectively do the work needed to guide Ontario’s universities as they rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister Romano is clearly not up to the job.
Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 professors and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Ben Lewis, OCUFA Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or email@example.com