The union representing professors at Laurentian University is asking members who are creditors of the insolvent university to hold off on voting on the plan of arrangement.
Laurentian’s creditors will vote on the “plan of arrangement,” in which the university lays out how it plans to pay them back, on Sept. 14. Provided the plan of arrangement is approved, the university expects to seek a court motion to exit insolvency on Oct. 5.
A plan of arrangement is essentially a plan put forward by an insolvent organization to pay out its creditors, and it must be approved by these creditors.
Among LU’s creditors are current and former employees of the university, including those who were terminated in 2021 as a result of Laurentian’s insolvency.
An Aug. 4 memo distributed to members of the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) said electronic ballots will be distributed this month for members to vote on the plan of arrangement, and voting will take place over several weeks.
However, the union said several issues related to the plan of arrangement remain outstanding and must be addressed “before we can recommend a ‘Yes’ vote.”
Those include concerns around university governance and gaps in faculty complement.
The memo said discussions on these issues have been ongoing, but have not yet been adequately addressed by university administration. Until progress is made on these issues, LUFA is asking members to withhold their vote on the plan of arrangement.
Sudbury.com reached out to Laurentian University regarding LUFA’s position on the plan of arrangement, and the university provided this emailed statement.
“Laurentian has worked collaboratively with all of its stakeholders, including LUFA, throughout the CCAA restructuring," the statement reads.
"That has allowed Laurentian to be able to present a Plan of Arrangement to its creditors, which will be voted on at a meeting on September 14, 2022. We are focused on the future of the university for our students, faculty and staff and the broader community we have served for the past 60 years, which will be dependent upon a positive vote on the Plan. As we continue to work towards a successful exit from the CCAA proceeding, we encourage all stakeholders to vote in order to ensure that future.”
LUFA vice-president Louis Durand told Sudbury.com that so far, the union has not received any “positive answers” on these issues from Laurentian’s leadership.
Durand said that not only were 110 faculty members terminated as part of Laurentian’s insolvency last year, another 20 have left the university since, and have not been replaced.
He said that two years ago, Laurentian had 400 full-time faculty members, and now there are less than 260.
“We want some guarantee regarding faculty complements,” Durand said, adding that many departments in the university have some “real problems” now due to this issue.
The memo said “if we are to make sure our students receive the quality of courses they expect, additional faculty need to be hired immediately to fill the gaps created by the last 18 months of devastation.”
LUFA said it would also like to see changes to governance at Laurentian.
“If we have learned anything from this crisis, it is that decisions about the future of our university and how it is governed should not be made behind closed doors by the Board of Governors,” said the memo.
“Laurentian University doesn’t just need a change in leadership, but a change in how it is governed. It is the type of top-down governance that got us into this mess and of which LUFA has long been critical.”
That means ensuring that Senate and other collegial governance committees are empowered decision-makers in these discussions in addition to the board of governors and that all unions on campus have a seat at the table, the memo said.
Another union representing Laurentian employees, the Laurentian University Staff Union (or LUSU), said it is recommending its members vote in favour of the plan of arrangement.
LUSU president Tom Fenske said the union will hold a meeting on the plan of arrangement on Aug. 16.
While creditors themselves have to make a final decision, Fenkse said “the inherent risk of not voting yes (on the plan of arrangement) is a big risk.”