Deep cuts to staffing, programs at Laurentian university have many wondering what future holds
SUDBURY -- The weather was dark and gloomy over Laurentian campus on Tuesday, much like the mood around campus, as many people deal with the aftermath of Monday's cuts.
Nearly 70 programs have been cut by the university, many from the Faculty of Arts.
Veronica Gordon is one student dealing with the aftermath. Gordon just finished her third year in Italian and isn't sure what the plan is for her to continue.
"Oh goodness, where do I even start? I'm upset, I'm devastated, I have a lot of emotions," she said. "I was completely shocked. I knew there was going to be at least something that happened, but I didn't expect for the entire Modern Languages department to get slashed."
A tearful Gordon, told CTV News she went to bed crying Monday night as she thought of those who will be affected.
She hasn't even had time to digest the news for herself adding it's left her in a state of utter shock.
"I would have expected maybe some of the classes would have been able to stay or I would have been able to finish my degree or finish the classes I need to finish my degree, but I don't think that will be possible," Gordon said.
"I just want to say a really big thank you to the Modern Languages department. I have learned so much over my past three years here and I appreciate everyone that I've come into contact with especially my professors and I really feel for them right now."
The frustrating part is Gordon and others say there has been a lack of information from the university about their future.
PhD candidate Adam Kirkwood has been a student at Laurentian University since 2014 and still has about three years of study and research ahead of him. While he appears to be safe, he knows of several people who have been affected by the move.
"I was talking to someone earlier and it's a bit of a mixed bag," Kirkwood said. "It's sadness, it's fear, anger ... a little bit of guilt, it's all over the place. It's definitely shocking is one way to put it."
Kirkwood received his undergraduate degree from the geography department and the School of Environment, both of which are now gone.
"Sudbury is such a perfect place to study the environment, we have the 'regreening story' which is such a global success story," he said. "And now the professors who were responsible for the regreening and have been promoting the regreening globally have been terminated and it's really sad to see the role models that I have learned so much from lose their jobs because of this process."
"I just don't understand some of the moves that were made, some of the changes that they thought were reasonable," said Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland.
McCausland took to his Facebook page after the cuts were announced calling the moves made short-sighted.
"I know the Midwifery program for example was competitive, successful and at capacity," he said. "Why would you cut that program and how are you going to help those students who are on placements all over the province find a path towards graduation?"
The mayor of Greater Sudbury and council had written a letter to the Ontario premier expressing their concerns. Laurentian University is one of the city's largest employers.
"It's going to have a huge economic impact to the city and our standing in all of Canada," said McCausland. "When people want to say 'oh I should move to Greater Sudbury ... oh but did you hear what happened at Laurentian?' I mean, we have to value these institutions. This is a critical part of well-being and access to education for northerners and I just think irreparable damage for both the university and to some degree our community was done."
Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger said he's been in touch with the premier and the ministry to relay his concerns. Bigger said he, like many, have not been left in the loop.
He's looking forward to getting his questions answered by the administration.
"This is an entirely closed process so it's frustrating from that perspective," said Bigger. "The impacts are devastating to our community from the number of students to the number of programs impacted, you know the billions of dollars that are related to the research and investments that is attracted to and through our community."
Bigger said it's unthinkable to see the degree of dismantling that's been happening behind closed doors. He adds while he would like to see what this version of Laurentian 2.0 looks like, it can't be this "bare bones" version the city is becoming aware of this week.
"It has to come from Laurentian and their board, it has to come from the plans that have been developed," he said. "They've worked behind closed doors for long enough and obviously the concern in the community and the lasting impacts no matter what happens here in our community is very concerning."
On Tuesday the cuts at Laurentian University were also a topic of concern for the country's national leaders.
“Obviously I’m very concerned with what has happened, the reports of what is going on at Laurentian University," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Our francophone institutions -- particularly for minority communities like Franco Ontarians -- are extremely important that we can protect. I can assure you that Minister Joly, the Minister of Official Languages, has reached out to her counterparts in the Ford government, in the Ontario government, to see what their plan is to support and protect this institution."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he has been to Laurentian, describing it as "essential for the north."
"It’s essential for French-speaking people in Ontario," Singh said. "There’s really only two full-time universities that you can attend all in French and this is one of them ... and the loss of that university is going to be crippling to the north, it’s going to have a very devastating impact. So I think we should have an approach where all, everything is on the table to protect the university."
Next week is expected to be a very important week in the restructuring process with a finance meeting, a board of governors meeting and a public senate meeting all being scheduled.