When Laurentian University, a mid-sized bilingual institution in Sudbury, Ont., filed for creditor protection in February–the first Canadian university, at least in recent memory to do so–the university was quick to say that current students would see no change in their day-to-day education and that Laurentian would “continue actively recruiting new students,” adding that it had set a target date of April 30 to complete key components of a restructuring plan.
That was then.
On Monday, about 100 faculty members lost their jobs and 69 programs including 28 in French, were cut.
According to a report from CBC News, the cuts are not sitting well on campus or in Ottawa and Toronto.
“I had one girl text me yesterday wondering if a Laurentian degree would be respectable anymore,” Lexey Burns, editor of the university’s University’s newspaper, The Lambda, told CBC News on Tuesday, adding that some are wondering if wearing clothes with Laurentian logos would be an embarrassment.
“They say it’s going to be a Laurentian 2.0 and I think they got the numbers mixed up. It’s definitely more of a 0.2,” Burns said.
“They’ve gotten rid of almost every single humanities program at Laurentian. This happened a year ago when they cut the theater and motion picture arts program and everyone was rioting about how we need the arts in the north. And now we will never see another arts program, or anything similar, in northern Ontario.
Meanwhile Timmins-James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus didn’t mince his words–calling the cuts an act of national vandalism.
“You cannot treat a public institution, like a university or a hospital or any other public institution, as though it were just some mine that went bankrupt and you’re going to sell off the assets,” Angus said.
“The destruction of the programs at Laurentian will have impacts for the coming decades.”
At least two NDP MPPs in the provincial provincial legislature were equally angry.
“Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano believe students, staff and the community around Laurentian aren’t worth investment. We disagree. The massive cuts at Laurentian are devastating,” Sudbury MPP Jamie West said during Tuesday’s Question Period.
Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas said thousands of Laurentian students are worried and deserve answers.
“Instead of being focused on their final projects and studying for their year-end exams, Laurentian students have been worried about their futures,” Gélinas said.
“Ross Romano kept promising to protect Laurentian’s students and ensure their studies weren’t disrupted. But thousands of students woke up Monday morning to learn that their programs and departments had been cut; and, that their teachers, supervisors and mentors were being laid off.”
Gelinas also noted that Laurentian University is designated under the French Language Services Act, which means its French programs are protected.
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in.
“The federal government will be there to support. But it is a provincial jurisdiction, and therefore they need to figure out what the plan is. And we will be there to support because we know how important it is to protect official language minorities across the country,” Trudeau said.
The province, meanwhile, is saying little.
In a statement to CBC News, the Office of the Minister of Colleges and Universities says “it is deeply concerning and regrettable that Laurentian University has had to take such drastic measures to get their fiscal house in order. We are monitoring the situation closely. Our priority is the continuity of learning for Laurentian’s students.”
With files from CBC News