TORONTO, April 14, 2021 — Today, OCUFA President Rahul Sapra and LUFA President Fabrice Colin called for the resignations of Laurentian University President Robert Haché, Vice-President Academic and Provost Marie-Josée Berger, Vice-President Administration Lorella Hayes, Board Chair Claude Lacroix, Registrar Serge Demers, and Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano for their roles in creating the financial crisis that has devastated the public university.
The call comes after the announcement that 69 programs and 110 faculty positions will be cut and following LUFA members voting no-confidence in Laurentian’s senior administration. Amongst those who lost their jobs were 17 faculty members who chose retirement to ensure that as many of their colleagues as possible would keep their jobs.
The cuts are appalling because they could have been avoided if Laurentian’s senior leadership and Romano had been doing their jobs. Instead, years of institutional mismanagement, provincial underfunding, and negligence created the crisis at Laurentian. Rather than addressing the financial challenges early on, Laurentian’s senior leadership waited until the last minute to impose the costly, secretive, and inappropriate Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. Meanwhile, knowing what was at stake, Romano stood by and watched as the public university collapsed in upon itself.
In addition to the program and job cuts, Laurentian faculty were also put in a position where they had little choice but to ratify changes to their collective agreement that will see salaries reduced, teaching loads increased, and forced furlough days. Due to the CCAA process, information about these changes was available to members for less than 12 hours before they were required to vote to either accept concessions or risk having the university collapse completely.
“This was an incredibly difficult process and, unfortunately, its outcome means that important programs and jobs at Laurentian will be lost. We fought hard to minimize the damage but, without the provincial government at the table, we were in an impossible position,” said Fabrice Colin, President of LUFA. “It now appears clear that this was the outcome that both Laurentian’s senior administration and Minister Romano were working towards.”
LUFA and OCUFA are calling for new leadership at Laurentian to guide the university into the future. The current senior administration were complicit in creating Laurentian’s financial crisis and can no longer be trusted. For years, LUFA repeatedly raised concerns about the secretive and non-consultative approach the Laurentian administration took to making important financial decisions. These decisions, combined with the steady erosion of public funding, are the reason for the cuts announced as a result of the CCAA process.
Sapra expressed his heartfelt support for the faculty, staff, and students at Laurentian—especially those whose programs and jobs were cuts.
“This is an incredibly sad week for the people of Sudbury, for francophones, for Indigenous communities, and for all the people of Northern Ontario,” said Sapra. “To those who have lost their jobs or seen their programs cut, my heart goes out to you. Rest assured that we will hold those responsible to account.”
LUFA President Fabrice Colin also joined with OCUFA President Rahul Sapra to call for the resignation of Minister Romano and the five government appointees to Laurentian’s Board of Governors.
“The fact of the matter is that, if Ross Romano and the provincial government had done their jobs, none of these cuts would have been necessary,” said Sapra. “We are extremely disappointed in Minister Romano and the provincial government for abandoning Laurentian. They knew about the depths of the university’s financial difficulties for months, if not years, and had numerous opportunities to take action to avert this crisis. While we were fighting for Laurentian’s faculty, staff, and students, Minister Romano stood by and did nothing.”
The devastating cuts at Laurentian are the direct result of negligence on the part of Minister Romano, who was well aware of the financial challenges Laurentian was facing at least six months before they became public. Faculty no longer believe that Romano is listening to their concerns, or those of staff or students. As a result of the Minister’s inaction, Ontario’s university faculty and academic librarians have lost confidence and trust in Romano’s commitment to the university sector.
“Minister Romano failed to do his job and support Laurentian’s students, staff, and faculty in their greatest moment of need,” said Colin. “He is ultimately responsible for this crisis and the damage it will cause to our community for years to come.”
Despite the announced cuts, faculty remain committed to rebuilding Laurentian. Its role as a tri-cultural institution that supports French, English, and Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario is too important. However, for this effort to succeed, new leadership is needed at the university and ministry. Laurentian’s president, senior administration, and Minister Romano must do the right thing and step down.
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.
Founded in 1979, LUFA represents over 400 full-time and over 300 part-time professors at Laurentian University, the University of Sudbury, Huntington University, and Thorneloe University. For more information, visit the LUFA website at www.lufappul.ca.