Letter to Fleming College President and Board of Governors Chair: College leaders are accountable to the students, employers and communities they serve

OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick and the Presidents of OPSEU/SEFPO Locals 352 & 351, Liz Mathewson and Marcia Steeves, sent the following letter yesterday to Fleming College President, Maureen Adamson, and Fleming Board of Governors Chair, Don Gillespie, expressing deep concerns with procedural transparency surrounding the unprecedented suspension of 29 programs at Fleming College in April.

Click here to download a printable PDF version of the letter.

 June 25, 2024 

Dear President Adamson and Board Chair Gillespie: 

We write to express our grave concern about how the Board of Governors made its decision on April 23, 2024 to suspend 29 programs for the upcoming school year. Without transparency in decision-making, trust will be lacking between the students, employers and the communities that the college serves. With the program suspensions announced in late April coming on the heels of the 13 programs suspended in August of 2023, we believe it is apparent that the trust is now broken. 

Thousands of students, alumni, and community members have signed petitions. Many have left comments online that have testified to the lasting impact these shuttered programs, many of them programs that Fleming is renowned for, have had on their working lives. A diverse range of voices from current students, the City of Kawartha Lakes, the City of Peterborough, the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Home Builders Association, and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters have expressed their deep concern about the impact of the program cuts on young people’s futures, on the ability of local employers to recruit skilled workers in critical occupations, on the potential for important municipal initiatives to move forward, and on the future of natural resource management in Ontario in an era of deepening climate change. 

The governance framework for the colleges is established by the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act, 2002, and Ontario Regulation 34/03. It is not apparent to us: 

  • Why there was no public notice of the meeting on April 23, 2024; 
  • When and how the Board of Governors determined the program suspensions should be dealt with confidentially; and 
  • Why the internal governors were excluded from the meeting and were given no notice of it. 

The secrecy around the Board of Governors’ deliberations about the program suspensions is concerning. In addition to the lack of public notice, the entire meeting appears to have been held in camera. This seems to be at odds with the requirements of sections 5(5)-(6) of O. Reg 34/03 that all board of governors meetings be public and only part of the meeting be held in camera. And having the entire Board discussions about the program suspensions in camera with no opportunity for public engagement seems to be at odds with the government’s binding policy directive for the colleges, Governance and Accountability Framework, which describes “communications with stakeholders and clients” as an “essential element” of good governance. 

It is also not apparent to us what process was followed to determine that internal governors, including the student governor, were excluded and given no notice of the meeting. If it was a determination that the internal governors were in a conflict of interest, when was that determined? 

In closing, the Board of Governors is accountable to students, employers and the communities that the college serves. These program suspensions will have a lasting and harmful effect on young people, on businesses, and on our communities. We repeat our call to correct course and put an immediate pause on the suspension of programs and explore a strategy of mitigation, which necessarily involves, rather than excludes, key campus, industry, and community stakeholders. 

Sincerely, 

JP Hornick, President, OPSEU/SEFPO
Liz Mathewson, President, OPSEU/SEFPO Local 352
Marcia Steeves, President, OPSEU/SEFPO Local 351 

cc: Hon. Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities
Laurie Scott, MPP, Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes – Brock
Dave Smith, MPP, Peterborough-Kawartha
Hon. David Piccini, MPP, Northumberland-Peterborough South
Peggy Sattler, MPP, London West, NDP Critic for Colleges and Universities
Karen McCrimmon, MPP, Kanata-Carleton, Liberal Critic for Colleges and Universities