Thorneloe University students fight back against program closures
SUDBURY -- The fight between Thorneloe University students and Laurentian University continues after the announcement two months ago that both the Theatre Arts and Motion Picture Arts programs were being cancelled.
"We're not asking the administration to continue the program after we're gone, we're just asking that they give us what we paid for," said Caroline Kan-Hai a film production student.
The cancellation was announced on April 30 through a group email citing financial struggles, leaving approximate 30 currently enrolled students with a lot of questions.
"At first, we did try to negotiate with the administration. We had contacted the dean of arts and the president and asked them to explain what's going on, and we soon realized that they were not going to give us the courses we need to graduate," said Alexandre Fishbein-Ouimette. "We realized, as well, that they were not going to bring back any faculty - they had fired all the faculty, well laid off for that matter. Now, it's gotten to the point where we're trying to get attention from the ministry because Laurentian won't do anything to solve the problem."
Now, nearly two months since the announcement, students are fighting for answers and direction on how to complete their degrees properly. An online petition was launched and has received over 1,000 signatures in a week.
An explanation video and a letter to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities asking for help as well.
Meanwhile, Laurentian University says it's doing everything it can to ensure students can still graduate with their chosen degree.
"There is sufficient complementary in the programming that if offered at Laurentian and Thorneloe," explained President Robert Haché. "So while they might not get exactly the courses they initially thought they'd get, there is sufficient complementary in the programming so that all the students would be able to complete their degrees."
Haché adds, "It's not a perfect solution. We're working towards providing the best solution that we can and we really hope that students will take advantage of the opportunities that still remain."
However, students in the programs say this isn't good enough.
"The courses that are being offered, or I'd rather say insisted, are actually coming from other departments that aren't remotely close to film making," said Kan-Hai. "Including English departments, business departments and even colleges, which is not up to par with the university-level education."
"They keep saying 'we're going to be able to get our degree, we're going to be able to get our degree' and it's false," she adds. "We place faith in our universities to ensure that people who earn university degrees are actually educated with the required knowledge for the degrees and, unfortunately, that's not what they're doing. They're not offering our proper courses taught by teachers who are actually qualified to teach these courses. So we are just getting a piece of paper and our degree has completely lost its meaning."
"It's very disheartening. I had thought that Laurentian cared about the students," said Fischbein-Ouimette.
"Certainly this is not the way that anybody would desire winding down a program," said Haché. "I think the best-case scenario you'd want to be able to close them down over a period of time to be able to teach out the students. That, unfortunately, is not the situation that Thorneloe finds itself in. They simply don't have the ability to continue the programming and nor do we at Laurentian have the resources, faculty or ability at this time to simply continue the courses as they were before."
Both Laurentian University and the students are hopeful that a solution will be found before classes resume in September.
Students are also hoping that at least some qualified faculty will be brought back to help them with their degrees.