Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is calling on the provincial government to step in and block massive cuts at Laurentian University.
The elimination of over 60 programs and the termination of 100 professors will snatch a quality education from hundreds, if not thousands, of people living in northern and Indigenous communities, Thomas said.
“Education can’t be treated as a business, it’s a necessity,” said Thomas. “Postsecondary education benefits students, local employers and the regional economy. When students study in the North, they stay in the North.”
University administrators have said the money runs out April 30 and are forcing through deep cuts ahead of the deadline. They are making it look like there is no alternative to the cuts, Thomas said.
“There is an alternative and that is to do the right thing,” said Thomas. “The government must step up and make sure Laurentian has the resources to provide the same quality education that learning centres in southern Ontario offer.
Using the Companies’ Creditor Arrangements Act (CCAA) to force through cuts is a deeply cynical move on the part of university administrators,” said Thomas. “Treating terminated employees like any other creditor in terms of severance obligations is plain wrong.”
Colleges and universities in Ontario receive the lowest per-student funding of any province. The funding crisis has been years in the making and is the fault of governments of all political stripes.
Laurentian’s unique bilingual and tricultural mandate of English, French and Indigenous programming is at risk along with hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in the Sudbury area. Francophone and Indigenous students will be underserved if the university is put in jeopardy, said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.
“Laurentian’s programs promote and respect Francophone and Indigenous cultures,” said Almeida. “It supports reconciliation by offering Indigenous education and requiring B.A. students to take courses with Indigenous content. Gutting the university’s programs is not going to save Laurentian, and the government shouldn’t go along with this.”
Colleges and universities are the social, cultural and economic hubs of their communities, particularly in northern communities, said Tara Maszczakiewicz, an OPSEU/SEFPO regional vice-president from northern Ontario.
“These cuts will result in a crisis that will affect communities throughout northern Ontario,” said Maszczakiewicz. “We can’t put the future of an entire region in the hands of a couple of short-sighted administrators, the government has to rein them in and come up with a well-thought out plan that guarantees Laurentian’s future.