Letter: A student’s perspective on the Laurentian University debacle

The people responsible for this fiscal chaos must be held accountable

To the Expositor:

On the night of Thursday, April 1 at 10 pm, the student body at Laurentian University received news about the dissolution of the university’s federacy with Thornloe University, Huntington University and University of Sudbury. Was this a sick April fool’s joke by Laurentian University? Sadly no. Receiving this news the night before a long weekend has been difficult for most, but if we as students choose to email our deans out of concern for the future of our education, we may not receive a reply from them over the next few days. 

We are amidst many uncertainties about the future of our education. Right now, as students, we are in the midst of finals: the deadlines for papers and exams started this week and continue through the end of April. As we know, the dissolvement is in effect as of April 30, 2021. With the spring semester right around the corner, many students are registered to continue their hard-earned education. Now amidst a global pandemic and various other life stressing situations, students are left questioning if their credits will be useful towards the completion of their degree, or if they will even be able to continue with the remainder of their studies. 

On a personal level, this issue has been felt on a very deep level, as I was already affected by the cuts towards the classes and programs available at Laurentian University in April of 2020. I decided to enroll at Laurentian University in September 2019 to study theatre, and work towards a Bachelor of Education. I chose to study at Laurentian University because Sudbury is where my family is, and I wanted to be close to home to nurture these connections, while working towards furthering my career prospects at the local university. In April 2020, shortly after we were placed into a national lockdown due to the global pandemic of COVID-19 and, whilst again in the middle of my finals, I learnt that Laurentian University would be cutting the theatre program from their budget. As a result, my degree would no longer be guaranteed, and I would need to change my course of study, with classes no longer being offered due to low enrollment. However, what the administration didn’t take into account is that many of my fellow classmates moved to Sudbury to attend Laurentian University for the small class sizes, which improved the student-teacher ratio and allowed for greater guidance from their professors. We are now learning that professors who are not responsible for the chaos of Laurentian University’s insolvency are now losing their jobs, and some are being forced into retirement with a short four days’ notice; professors who made my education much more enjoyable than I thought it ever could be. 

Laurentian University has stated on numerous occasions that they have their students’ best interest at heart, yet we are experiencing undue stress due to the financial irresponsibility of a select few. Last week, they sent out an email expressing to students that they will be staying true to their tri-cultural mandate as a University Federation, though last night we learnt that their words were only empty promises. With the dissolution of the federation between the four universities, we are experiencing this tri-cultural mandate fall through the cracks. This is especially tragic as we are in a time where we should be focusing on Truth and Reconciliation between Indigenous communities and all our relations. We are again seeing, however, that the verbal commitment to Truth and Reconciliation from Laurentian University is baseless. 

What many people may not realize is that the repercussions of all the quickly changing events at Laurentian University and the federation of universities will have a major impact on Sudbury’s greater local economy. I’ve been informed that Laurentian University currently affects 1/3 of Sudbury’s local economy. The changes that are taking place should be concerning for all Sudbury residents and not only staff, students and faculty. 

We as students deserve to have clarity about our choices in order to continue our education. Laurentian University is a publicly funded institution which should be receiving the support of the provincial and federal governments. Instead, staff, faculty and students are experiencing the brunt of the irresponsibility of a select few in administration. It is important that we hold the people who are responsible for having caused the current fiscal chaos at Laurentian University accountable.

Kristen Lavallee