Laurentian University is in crisis. By extension, so is the rest of the university sector in Ontario.
Earlier this year, the Northern Ontario university announced that it was having significant financial difficulties. Ross Romano, the Minister of Colleges and Universities, and the Ford government caucus chose egregiously not to provide assistance to Laurentian. As a result of this decision, the Laurentian University administration resorted to a legal process in the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) designed for corporate bankruptcies–a process not intended for public institutions.
Over sixty programs at Laurentian are being shut down, resulting in over one hundred faculty members losing their jobs. The Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada (ALECC) have released a statement outlining what are perhaps the most affecting cuts: the School of the Environment, the School of Midwifery, Indigenous Studies, Francophone Studies, and the majority of the social sciences and humanities didn’t survive Laurentian’s relentless chopping block. As ALECC points out, that is one-third of Laurentian’s educational programs ground to dust. The resulting impacts of these losses will be felt painfully by the surrounding communities in Sudbury for who knows how long.
Furthermore, the crisis at Laurentian is part of an ongoing process. Since the 1990s, both Liberal and Conservative governments have eroded public funding for higher education in Ontario. Graham Cox, Senior Research Officer of CUPE National, outlines the trajectory in a stirring article: cuts to public funding, increasing tuition, exploiting international students, and corporatizing universities are a few of these steps that have led to this moment, all part of a stunning lack of understanding by governments as to the purpose of higher education. Ultimately, the Laurentian crisis is primarily a failure of governments both past and present. It is a failure that is by design. And it is a failure with implications that reach far beyond the boundaries of Laurentian.
Every one of us at Trent must get involved to fight back against the corporatization of higher education. We all have a part to play in reversing the abovementioned trajectory of the university sector. A good start is showing your support for Laurentian. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) outlines some initial showings of support you can undertake here, including a letter-writing campaign. CUPE Ontario has also launched its own letter-writing campaign. And the Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee (OUWCC) has just launched a media campaign to save Laurentian with some additional materials that you can share. But, of course, these campaigns should only be the beginning; much more is needed.
CUPE 3908 stands in solidarity with the students, staff, and community of Laurentian University, and stands against the government’s ongoing effort to destroy public higher education. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can be more involved or to offer your own ideas of what we can do to help. Your voices and actions are crucial; when united, we are a powerful and inspirational force. We can turn the tide together.