Robert Haché, PhD, is the president and vice-chancellor of Laurentian University
Much has recently been shared about Laurentian University’s importance in our community, illustrated most notably through community-led campaigns that have highlighted the contributions of Laurentian and its people in incubating generations of talent.
These stories resonate deeply.
And rightfully so — now in our 60th year, Laurentian is a much storied university that has defined the lives, ambitions, and aspirations of many in our communities, seeding ideas that changed the world and inspired others to action here in the north, and beyond.
As the Laurentian community has gathered in digital spaces, we have also come together at the mediation table to define a path forward for our University. The next two months will be critical to Laurentian’s future as we enter the first phase of the University’s transformation. This process started when Laurentian commenced proceedings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) on February 1st, stating that the University would need to restructure to ensure its future.
The Honourable Justice Sean Dunphy, a bilingual judge of the Ontario Superior Court and the Court-Appointed Mediator, is currently hard at work leading Laurentian stakeholders in mediation to find operational restructuring changes that will allow Laurentian to be a long term sustainable part of our community.
The stakeholders are many and represent a cross-section of the Laurentian community, including the Academic Senate, itself a selection of committed faculty and students which includes Francophone and Indigenous perspectives; the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA); the Laurentian University Staff Union (LUSU); and the federated universities (University of Sudbury, Thorneloe University and Huntington University).
Each has a voice in this process. Each is bringing their insight, perspective, and will ensure that they propose recommendations that will not only take into consideration the bilingual and tricultural mandate of the university, but also the needs of the market for the wider benefit of our communities. This requires considerable effort and commitment of all parties to achieve what needs to be done to restructure the university. It is incredibly important that we all understand the hard work ahead of us. There are no easy fixes to these issues and it is critical that we do not waste any time in their pursuit.
We are hopeful that by April 15, the community will start to see emerging clarity around key issues such as how Laurentian’s academic offerings and federation agreement will be structured for the Fall of 2021. By that time, we are also hopeful of having agreed upon other key terms of the restructuring, including with those with our labour partners. That will allow us to further develop a meaningful financial forecast and engage in discussions with a view to obtaining additional financing for a post-restructuring Laurentian.
Provided we achieve certain critical milestones in the first phase of our restructuring, May 1st will mark the start of the second phase. By then, it is our hope that Laurentian and its stakeholders will have reached consensus on key terms of the restructuring, allowing the University to create a financially sustainable future for itself and work towards implementing those changes.
It is also at this juncture that Laurentian will develop a formal Plan of Arrangement that will outline the terms of its emergence from CCAA protection, progressing towards financial sustainability.
As the Fall 2021 Term kicks off, so too will begin a third phase of the CCAA restructuring, reflected by the implementation of the new academic structure. We will continue to deliver a quality education and dynamic student experience to our students, potentially the first opportunity for them to return to campus face-to-face since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much work remains ahead of us. We are hopeful that the restructuring, although a difficult chapter in Laurentian’s story, will result in a revitalized university that will not only survive, but thrive. It is as a community that we will bring forward a new Laurentian.
A university where vibrant academic programs are carefully undertaken to better align with what students want to learn at Laurentian.
Where Francophone and Indigenous programming, learning, and teaching are valued and emphasized, very much a part of the fabric of who we are as an academic community.
A university that continues to graduate first-generation learners, in whose education lies the future and aspirations of communities here in the North, and around the globe.