With Laurentian University’s journey under creditor protection now in the rearview mirror, the university has turned its attention to hiring, namely replacing faculty and administrators who have left LU.
The university’s interim president, Sheila Embleton, spoke of Laurentian’s hiring plans during the March 21 meeting of LU’s senate.
Laurentian finally exited court-supervised insolvency restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (or CCAA) late last year, after 22 months.
In terms of faculty hires, Laurentian announced in January it had approved funding for 10 new tenure-track faculty members.
Laurentian also announced last August that three tenure-track professors were being hired in 2023, along with 12 limited-term faculty members.
In April 2021, on what has been dubbed “Black Monday,” Laurentian cut 58 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs and 194 full-time positions (116 full-time faculty, 41 unionized staff and 37 non-union jobs) as part of its restructuring.
Beyond the cuts related to LU’s insolvency, several professors have left Laurentian since that time (that number stood at 20 in June 2022) and were not replaced while the CCAA was ongoing.
Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) president Fabrice Colin said this week the number of professors who have left the university is now higher than that, but he did not immediately have an exact figure.
Embleton said in her report that a number of the 10 faculty hires authorized in January are proceeding well.
More faculty searches and staff searches will proceed after the 2023-24 budgeting process is complete and the budget is passed by the board of governors in late April, she said.
In terms of the 2023-24 budgeting process, Embleton said requests from the various departments at the university “far outstrip our ability to fund, so difficult decisions are being made on prioritization.”
Senate member Dan Scott asked if Embleton could give any ballpark figures for what these budget requests are, and what LU is able to fund, “given that budget planning process was sort of heralded as being transparent and open, unusually so for Laurentian.”
Embleton deferred the question to Michel Piché, Laurentian’s interim vice-president, finance and administration.
“I don't want to answer that question, because this is a public meeting,” Piché said. “It’s a process that's ongoing, and I don't want to send any expectations that may not be realized. This budget has many moving parts.”
Embleton said budgeting involves a triaging of priorities.
“For example, accredited programs, which we hope to keep accredited, may have more crucial and critical needs than perhaps some others,” she said.
Laurentian will be entering a strategic planning process, and “we don't want to use up every piece of room that we might have before the strategic planning comes.”
Embleton said it’s also not always clear how many vacancies there are, and if these vacancies survived the CCAA.
Referring to a deferred maintenance plan passed by LU’s board of governors last month to repair the university’s infrastructure, senate member Ernst Gerhardt said “we also have deferred maintenance that we have to do for positions that are unfilled or that are vacant for programs that are kind of struggling.”
Given Embleton’s reference to lack of clarity regarding what positions need to be filled, Gerhardt wondered whether any sort of audit on the subject has been put in place.
Interim provost Brenda Brouwer said the records are there, but it’s all about asking the right questions, especially for someone, who, like her, is new to their role. “So there is a bit of back and forth,” she said.
Embleton said searches are also underway for a number of senior administrators, including for her own successor.
She has been temporarily seconded to Laurentian from York University to fill the interim president’s role until a successor can be appointed.
It’s much the same situation with Brouwer, who has been seconded to Laurentian from Queen’s University to fill the position of interim vice president, academic and provost until a permanent employee can be appointed in her place.
The university’s previous president, Robert Haché, and provost, Marie-Josée Berger, were terminated by Laurentian last fall as part of the terms of its plan of arrangement under the CCAA.
Laurentian has been assembling selection committees for both of these senior positions, with several senate members having been appointed during the March 21 meeting.
Embleton said in her report that searches also continue to fill several other administrative positions, which are either vacant or being filled with existing employees stepping in on an interim basis.
These include: university secretary, associate university secretary, general counsel, legal counsel, vice-president, finance and administration, associate vice-president of human resources, and the deans of arts and education and health.
A search will also shortly be underway for a new associate vice-president of francophone affairs at Laurentian, Embleton said.
Heidi Ulrichsen is Sudbury.com’s associate content editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.