Robert Haché is president and vice-chancellor of Laurentian University
It has been a few weeks of upheaval for Laurentian University. For Sudbury. For Northern Ontario.
We, Northern Ontario’s oldest university, are insolvent and the decision to commence proceedings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) was not one that was made easily or lightly. But it was necessary given Laurentian’s longstanding and increasing financial challenges.
While this extraordinary step has come as a shock to many, the immense strength, resilience, optimism and commitment to Laurentian has also shone through in the actions of our community.
Students come first at Laurentian, and everything that we – faculty, staff and administration – have done, are doing, and will do going forward as a community is aimed at providing the best possible experience and outcomes to our students.
This CCAA process will be hard work and we have a number of steps to take to ensure the financial and operational stability of the University. We took some of these first steps in the past week, including our first post-filing Senate meeting, the 10-day comeback hearing, and a public meeting of our Board of Governors.
The Senate meeting served to highlight the entire community’s commitment to our students. Senate governs Laurentian’s academics and, faced with an immediate need to identify a small group of senators to represent this body in upcoming CCAA mediation, senators from all parts of the academy – faculty, students and administration – came together collegially to elect a representative group of six senators. Successful academic restructuring is the first step that needs to be taken in the process and I am confident that last week we made tremendous progress in that regard.
The CCAA process is being overseen by the Honourable Geoffrey B. Morawetz, Chief Justice of the Superior Court, who has extensive experience in insolvency. Last week, the Honourable Justice Sean Dunphy, a bilingual judge of the Ontario Superior Court, was appointed as a Court-Appointed Mediator. Justice Dunphy’s role includes working with the parties to review and restructure academic programming, as well as the federated universities model, aid in the negotiation of a new collective agreement with our faculty association, and help restructure our future operations.
There are a large number of stakeholders working together to ensure the future of Laurentian. I have every confidence that Laurentian can come together as a community to achieve the necessary changes for our University to not only survive, but thrive.
In the next three months, each of us has an important role to play in charting Laurentian’s path forward through a restructuring of our operations and academic programs with a bottom line focus on student interest, financial sustainability, and strong outcomes. This spirit of collaboration and cooperation is what will lead Laurentian successfully through this needed restructuring in the months ahead.
Laurentian is a beacon in Northern Ontario. An incubator of cutting-edge talent, grit, and commitment to community. As I recently wrote to Laurentian students — many of them first-generation learners — they are deserving of the promise that our Northern university delivers.
We train next generation innovators and thinkers. We engage in cutting-edge research and scholarship that breaks new trails. We build social movements and transform communities. And we do it all in a richly diverse, multicultural community that celebrates Indigenous and Francophone cultures.
These qualities that Laurentian fosters are worthy of being defended. And our students are worthy of every opportunity to pursue their education in our hallowed halls.