(TORONTO – February 23, 2021)
As part of a week of advocacy, faculty and students from across Ontario have been meeting with dozens of MPPs to demand the provincial government take responsibility for the underfunding of Laurentian University and provide the institution with the necessary resources to secure its future. Despite the damage that would be caused by the severe cuts being planned for Laurentian, Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano and Ministry representatives continue to refuse to stand up for the people of Northern Ontario and provide vital funding for the public university.
Instead, at a meeting with OCUFA, Ministry representatives said the government intends to wait until after the university has been dramatically restructured through the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) to determine its next steps. Faculty and students contend that the position taken by Romano is irresponsible, threatens jobs, essential programs, student education quality, and will do irreparable harm to the university and Greater Sudbury community.
“What was communicated to us is that Romano and the Ministry are essentially OK if their inaction causes dozens of program closures, hundreds of job losses, and thousands of students to reconsider where they want to study this fall,” said Jean-Charles Cachon, Secretary-Treasurer of the Laurentian University Faculty Association. “The wounds these impending cuts would cause to our local Indigenous and francophone communities are difficult to overstate. Both Minister Romano and Minister of Francophone Affairs Caroline Mulroney have refused to meet with us. We feel we have been abandoned by the Ontario government.”
As was recently revealed, Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano has known about Laurentian’s worsening fiscal situation for more than six months. It is astounding that he knew that Laurentian was heading towards the edge of a fiscal cliff and chose to do nothing. It is shocking that even now, when a public university is in free fall, he continues to stand by and watch.
“For years we have been warning about the government’s chronic underfunding of Ontario’s universities and the negative impact it would have on students and education quality,” said Rahul Sapra, President of OCUFA. “Laurentian University is a public institution, not a private-sector corporation. This government has a responsibility and obligation to provide the funding needed to secure Laurentian’s future.”
Despite the Minister’s position, many MPPs have expressed their concern with the disregard the Progressive Conservative government has shown for Laurentian, Greater Sudbury, and the people of Northern Ontario—especially the region’s vibrant Indigenous and francophone communities. In meetings with MPPs, faculty and students have emphasized the harm the Minister’s inaction is causing the community and damage it will cause to education quality, jobs, and the local economy.
“Statements from this government that they are concerned about students ring false and hollow,” said Darius Garneau, a student in the Department of Mathematics and Computers Science at Laurentian. “The Ford government and Laurentian administration have repeatedly attempted to silence student voices. If they respect students, they should step up, do their jobs, and ensure Laurentian University is properly funded.”
This week faculty, staff, students, and concerned community members have also taken to social media. They are using the hashtags #FundLU and #HumansOfLU to share stories of the contributions Laurentian has made to their lives and appeal for the provincial government to provide the university with the funding it needs. In addition, an ongoing letter-writing campaign has seen almost 6,000 emails sent to Minister Romano and Premier Doug Ford asking them to properly fund Laurentian University, both in the short- and long-term.