Laurentian University’s senate has passed a motion to reverse the decision of university administration in July to suspend admissions to 17 programs or program specializations due to low enrolment and overlapping content.
The motion was brought forward at the Sept. 15 meeting by Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) president Fabrice Colon.
It said only the senate — a governing body made up of faculty, students and senior administrators — has the power to make decisions as to whether or not an academic program, or admissions to an academic program, can be suspended.
Because the matter had not yet come before the senate, LUFA said university administration (i.e. Serge Demers, then-Interim Vice-President Academic and Provost) did not have the authority to issue a memo to the Senate's academic planning committee (ACAPLAN) about this decision, and therefore the memo was invalid. The motion also directs university admissions to reinstitute admissions to all programs listed in the memo.
Speaking to Sudbury.com on Sept. 15, LUFA secretary-treasurer Jean-Charles Cachon said with the approval of the motion, it’s the faculty association’s view that Laurentian’s decision to suspend admissions to the aforementioned programs must be reversed.
“They don’t seem to have any wiggle room,” Cachon said, adding that the faculty association is pleased with the senate’s decision on the matter.
Before bringing the motion before the senate, LUFA obtained a legal opinion on the matter from the Toronto law firm Ryder Wright Blair and Homes LLP.
Laurentian University, along with most other universities in Canada, operates under what’s called a “bicameral” structure.
That means financial decisions are made by the board of governors, and decisions about academic programs are made by the senate. University administration is appointed by the board of governors.
“It is our legal opinion that the provost does not have the statutory authority under the Laurentian University of Sudbury Act, S.O.1960, ch. 151, as amended by 1961-62, ch. 154 (the “Act”) to suspend admissions,” said the legal opinion.
“The Act makes clear that admissions fall under the purview of the Laurentian University Senate the “senate”), and not the vice-president academic, provost or any other agent or representative of the board of governors the “board”).
“It is also our legal opinion that the Act does not permit senate to delegate its statutory powers and responsibilities concerning admissions to any other university body or to any individual officer of the university.
“In particular, given the bicameral structure of university governance set out in the Act, the Act does not permit the senate to delegate its powers regarding admissions to the board or a representative of the board, such as the provost.”
Sudbury.com reached out to Laurentian University for their response to the senate vote.
We received the following brief emailed statement:
"We note the recommendation of the Laurentian University Senate yesterday," the university said. "The Academic Planning Committee (ACAPLAN), a Sub-Committee of the Senate, will be engaging in their work and discussing these programs as early as this Friday."
However, in the meeting, Laurentian president Robert Haché said he believes Demers followed proper procedure in suspending admissions to the 17 programs.
Demers had sent a memo to the senate’s academic planning committee on the matter, which was to be brought forward to the full senate in October.
“I do want to emphasize that I believe that the provost followed the appropriate procedure in referring the memo to ACAPLAN for it to come forward to senate in October,” said Haché.
Haché said he appreciates the passion of the senate members who spoke on the topic during the meeting.
“This is an extremely important topic,” he said. “We’re talking about the future of academic programming at the university, and this is something that merits strong collegial discussion going forward.”
He said he thinks everyone in the senate “supports that Laurentian be able to offer the highest-quality academic programs that we can — programs that solicit strong interest from our students.
“It’s really about having academic programs at this institution that provide the best education to our students that we can provide.”
Although Laurentian said the programs were suspended due to low enrolment and overlapping content, Cachon said he’s received evidence to the contrary.
“They just claimed that these programs were not popular with students, but I received a ton of evidence to the contrary from several of these programs ... that their information was not really accurate,” he said.
Cachon said even with the Sept. 15 vote by senate, Laurentian could still suspend admissions to these 17 programs, as long as they go through proper channels.
LUFA had also launched a judicial review of the situation, but Cachon said with senate’s vote, he doesn’t think it will still need to go before the courts.
“Unless there are still grounds to keep going to court, for the moment, this decision of senate has to be executed,” Cachon said. “This is what we were looking for in court if senate had not taken the decision.”