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LU PhD candidate: I worry what ‘Laurentian 2.0’ might mean for grad students

With research money spent on Laurentian’s operations, ‘insolvent’ university gives no reassurances for grad students’ salaries beyond April 30
Adam Kirkwood is a PhD candidate in boreal ecology at Laurentian University. (Supplied)

Since the declaration of insolvency at Laurentian University Feb. 1, Laurentian students, staff, and faculty have been faced with overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty about what their future at the university might be.

However, despite the grim outlook on the finances, Laurentian president Robert Haché said In an email Feb. 1 “Laurentian University has commenced a court-supervised proceeding under federal legislation. It will not affect the day-to-day operation of the university or the student experience that defines Laurentian.” On Feb. 5, he stated that he is “optimistic and excited about a Laurentian 2.0.” 

From a student perspective, this is simply not the truth, and we are not optimistic about a ‘Laurentian 2.0.”

Graduate students like myself rely on the research funding that ourselves and our supervisors secure in the form of research grants. However, these funds are no longer available to us, as research funds were spent for operational purposes. Without funding, the progress of research (and therefore the progress of graduate students) comes to an abrupt stop.

Additionally, graduate students have been given no reassurance that our salaries will be paid past April 30, the deadline of the CCAA process. However, this deadline means little to graduate students who work year-round, and use these salaries to pay our rent, buy our food, and to meet other basic needs as we complete our degrees.  

Now, myself, and many other graduate students, are scrambling to determine how we can complete our research on time to finish our degrees. Will we have to change our research project? When will our research funding return? Will “Laurentian 2.0” still support graduate students?

These are only a few of the many, many questions that graduate students have, and these are questions that were posed at Laurentian’s Senate meeting on Feb. 9, and at the Board of Governors meeting on February 12th.

President Haché notes that “students come first at Laurentian,” but this is most certainly not the attitude that students were met with when posing their questions.

During the Board of Governors meeting, I began to pose a series of questions. Will graduate students continue to be paid past April 30? And most importantly, will senior administration and the Board of Governors accept responsibility for this crisis, and be held accountable?

As I delivered my questions, I was interrupted by the Chair of the Board, who had suddenly realized that the students wishing to ask questions were in fact not permitted to speak, as we were not scheduled in the agenda as speakers. 

Morgan Cashmore-Rouleau, an undergraduate student in the psychology program, was next in line to speak. Mrs. Cashmore-Rouleau wanted to ask “How can the university say that we (students) are the top priority and that student life won’t change when programs are going to be cut? How can we be the priority when we are the ones who are going to suffer for the poor judgement and financial decisions that Laurentian University has made?” Unfortunately, Mrs. Cashmore-Rouleau was not given the opportunity to speak.

Students were silenced by the Chair of the Board of Governors, who were supposed to be our advocates. Sadly, we did not receive answers to any of these questions.

We are told by President Haché and the Chair of the Board of Governors that “we are in this together,” when it is in fact the students, staff, and faculty who face the consequences of this mismanagement and lack of transparency and accountability. 

Without transparency and accountability, how are students, staff, and faculty supposed to trust the administration to “rebuild” Laurentian University. 

Students are being affected by this process, despite the kind words and reassurances that student progress won’t be impacted. 

Unfortunately, these kind words aren’t being backed by actions, or by answers to students' questions – so they are just that; words. 

We students have one final question, and we won’t capitulate until it is answered – how will senior administration and the Board of Governors be held accountable for this unprecedented crisis?

Adam Kirkwood is a PhD candidate in boreal ecology at Laurentian University. 

His column was also endorsed by:

Morgan Cashmore-Rouleau B.A (Psychology and WGSX Studies)

Konnor Kennedy Ph.D Candidate (Biomolecular Sciences)

Jasmine Veitch, M.Sc. Graduate (Biology)

Natalie Burgess, M.Sc. Candidate (Biology)

Meghan Ward, M.Sc. Candidate (Biology)

Lianne Girard, M.Sc. Candidate (Biology)

Sarah Falconer, M.Sc. Candidate (Biology) 

Breanna Pyott, M.Sc Candidate (Biology)

Jasmine Louste-Fillion, M.Sc. Candidate (Biology)

Calvin Kluke, M.Sc. Candidate (Biology)

Laurentian University Graduate Students’ Association/Association des étudiant(e)s aux études supérieures de l’Université Laurentienne

Natalie Mullin-Belanger M.Sc. Candidate (Biology)

James Seward, Ph. D. Candidate (Boreal Ecology)

Jonathan Lavigne, Ph. D. Student (Boreal Ecology) 

Nathalie Tremblay, M.Sc. Candidate (Biology)

Kunali Gohil, M.Sc. Candidate (Biology)