Some are calling it the ‘day of reckoning’. Today, members of the Laurentian University senate will get their first look at the proposed plan to restructure the struggling institution.
The meeting is expected to begin around 9 a.m. today and run through until 3 p.m., according to information received by Sudbury.com.
What the senators will get to see today are Laurentian’s plans to restructure itself to deal with its considerable financial burden after having declared itself insolvent back in February.
There is considerable tension surrounding the information that will be revealed to senators today as the information revealed today will show how the restructuring plans will impact academic programming, which will in turn impact faculty and staff.
As was revealed in February, had it not been able to access $25 million in relief funding, Laurentian University said it would have run out of cash to meet its payroll obligations by the end of that month.
This is according to publicly available court documents filed by Laurentian on Jan. 30 as it seeks restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) due to insolvency.
It’s a move that’s considered unprecedented in the sector, and one that shocked students and faculty when announced earlier this year.
The $25 million in relief funding is Debtor in Possession (DIP) funding, a special form of financing for insolvent debtors while restructuring is ongoing. Laurentian has sought this funding from Firm Capital Corp. out of Toronto.
The accounting firm Ernst & Young is the court-appointed monitor of LU’s CCAA filing. The university had actually engaged the same firm this past fall as external financial advisors.
As part of those restructuring plans, Laurentian announced last week that as of May 1, Laurentian University is terminating its agreement with the three federated universities operating on the post-secondary campus: Huntington University, Thorneloe University and the University of Sudbury.
The import of the restructuring was highlighted on March 16 when Laurentian University president Robert Haché warned senators that if mediation with the senate and other interested parties is not successful, and the restructuring plans being revealed to them today are not approved, “the university will cease to function as of April 30.”
As part of the CCAA proceedings, representatives of various stakeholders, including six representatives of the Laurentian Senate, were tasked with taking part in the mediation process where the restructuring process is being worked out.
The deadline for that process is April 30. It is expected details on those plans will be made public around the middle of this month.
During this morning’s commute, Laurentian University faculty, staff and supporters marched back and forth along the Bridge of Nations waving signs and encouraging commuters to honk and show their support. The event was organized by the Save Our Sudbury group that has been lobbying to end the CCAA process, push for stable provincial funding and defend the university federation.
One of those supporters was Clarissa Lassaline, who parked her wheelchair at the corner of Paris Street and Van Horne, holding signs. One of those signs read “Stop the Break-up #FUNDLU” and “Don’t F with the Feds,” a reference to the decision to terminate the federation agreements.
Lassaline, who studied French literature and graduated from LU, said she was compelled to come out and defend her alma mater.
“This is an attack on post-secondary public education,” Lassaline said.
While acknowledging the internal financial pressures the school faces, she said the issues go beyond Laurentian’s borders.
“It goes much deeper. It’s a lack of funding from the provincial government that has been ongoing,” Lassaline said, while adding that she wouldn’t be surprised if other universities go through the same process.
Her thoughts, she also said, are with the students.
“These are irate students walking today — they’re angry. Their whole livelihood right now, all their plans for the future, are being totally screwed.”