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Faculty calling out Ross Romano for ‘inaction’ on Laurentian’s financial crisis

‘It is shocking that even now, when a public university is in free fall, he continues to stand by and watch’
20191115-Sault MPP Ross Romano-DT
Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano.

A group representing university faculty in Ontario is calling out Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano for what they say is his inaction on Laurentian University’s insolvency. 

On Feb. 1, Laurentian announced it is insolvent and plans to restructure under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) said ministry officials said at a meeting that the government intends to wait until after the university has been dramatically restructured through the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) to determine its next steps.

Faculty and students contend that the position taken by Romano is irresponsible, threatens jobs, essential programs, student education quality, and will do irreparable harm to the university and Greater Sudbury community, said a press release from OCUFA.

“What was communicated to us is that Romano and the Ministry are essentially OK if their inaction causes dozens of program closures, hundreds of job losses, and thousands of students to reconsider where they want to study this fall,” said Jean-Charles Cachon, Secretary-Treasurer of the Laurentian University Faculty Association, in the press release.

“The wounds these impending cuts would cause to our local Indigenous and francophone communities are difficult to overstate. Both Minister Romano and Minister of Francophone Affairs Caroline Mulroney have refused to meet with us. We feel we have been abandoned by the Ontario government.”

As was recently revealed, Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano has known about Laurentian’s worsening fiscal situation for more than six months, said the press release.

“It is astounding that he knew that Laurentian was heading towards the edge of a fiscal cliff and chose to do nothing,” the press release said. “It is shocking that even now, when a public university is in free fall, he continues to stand by and watch.”

For his part, Romano told reporters earlier this month that it is unfortunate that Laurentian has reached this point.

He has appointed a special investigator, Dr. Alan Harrison, to look into the matter. A report will be issued by Harrison this spring.

"I'm certainly — (along with) our entire government — committed to ensuring the best possible result for Laurentian and their students coming out of this situation,” he told reporters.

“For years we have been warning about the government’s chronic underfunding of Ontario’s universities and the negative impact it would have on students and education quality,” said Rahul Sapra, president of OCUFA, in the press release.

“Laurentian University is a public institution, not a private-sector corporation. This government has a responsibility and obligation to provide the funding needed to secure Laurentian’s future.”

This week faculty, staff, students, and concerned community members have also taken to social media, the press release said.

They are using the hashtags #FundLU and #HumansOfLU to share stories of the contributions Laurentian has made to their lives and appeal for the provincial government to provide the university with the funding it needs. 

In addition, an ongoing letter-writing campaign has seen almost 6,000 emails sent to Minister Romano and Premier Doug Ford asking them to properly fund Laurentian University, both in the short- and long-term.