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Thorneloe U. says it will appeal ‘devastating’ May 2 court decision

The decision allows for termination of LU’s agreement with federated universities; U of S also says it’s ‘extremely disappointed’
thornloe
Thorneloe University. (File)

Thorneloe University said it will appeal a May 2 court decision that allows Laurentian University to terminate the more than 60-year-old agreement with the three federated universities operating on campus.

In decisions released late Sunday, the courts also approved a stay of proceedings protecting Laurentian from its creditors until Aug. 31 as well as a further $10 million debtor-in-possession (DIP) loan that gives it enough money to operate for another four months.

The terms of the aforementioned DIP loan taken out by Laurentian had as one of its terms the severing of ties with the three federated universities, Thorneloe as well as Huntington University and the University of Sudbury.

Laurentian said it needs the roughly $7 million per year that is transferred to the federated universities, which offered classes that counted toward Laurentian degrees.

Both Thorneloe and the University of Sudbury went to court last week to fight Laurentian’s plans with regards to the federated universities. 

But motions brought forward by Thorneloe and the University of Sudbury that sought to disrupt Laurentian’s plans were denied by the courts.

For its part, Huntington has reached an interim agreement with Laurentian which includes the sale of its popular gerontology program.

A press release put out by Thorneloe said it will file a motion for leave to appeal and a stay of the order to the Ontario Court of Appeal, as it previously advised Laurentian it would do in the event of a decision against Thorneloe.

Given the court’s decision, Thorneloe has no alternative but to cancel its Laurentian online classes for the spring semester, which were set to commence today (May 3), said the press release.

Thorneloe said it will reach out directly to all Laurentian students affected to provide more information.

Thorneloe’s theology programs will not be affected by the cancellations.

The lawyer representing Thorneloe University in court last week, Andrew Hatnay, said during court proceedings that Laurentian will gain “relatively nickels” by terminating the federation.

Thorneloe, on other other hand, will be bankrupted by the situation, which he said will be “catastrophic” for the federated university.

“Unless corrected by the Court of Appeal, this decision is devastating to our students, faculty and staff as it enables Laurentian to move forward with its ill-conceived plan to close down the federated universities,” said Thorneloe president John Gibaut, in a press release issued late Sunday.

Laurentian’s motive is to eliminate competition for its own courses and attempt to maximize its own tuition and grant revenues, said the press release. However, Thorneloe’s unique offerings in Religious Studies, Ancient Studies and Women Gender and Sexuality Studies attract students to the Laurentian community. 

“These students will end up having to pursue their education outside of Northern Ontario," said Gibaut.  The termination of the federation agreement would force the closure of Thorneloe’s operation at Laurentian and the permanent loss of even more jobs in the Sudbury area.”

The University of Sudbury, which has also cancelled all of its spring classes due to the situation, issued a press release Monday in response to the court’s decision. The federated university said it is “extremely disappointed by this decision.”

It said Laurentian is “violating its longstanding commitment” to a federation that has existed since the university’s creation more than 60 years ago. 

‘We believe that termination of the federation is not in the best interests of our students, faculty, employees and the communities we serve,” said University of Sudbury president John Meehan, in a press release.

“We are currently awaiting the reasons for the decision to determine the next steps in this process and will communicate any updates that may be necessary.”

The University of Sudbury has stated its intention to become a Francophone university in the wake of Laurentian’s actions.

“The University of Sudbury will diligently pursue its commitment to become an independent Francophone university, so that it be able to not only deliver the courses it currently offers in French, but to offer the French-language programs and courses that Laurentian University has ceased to offer or that it is inadequately offering to meet the needs of the Francophone community,” said Pierre Riopel, chair of the Board of the University of Sudbury.

The federated university had also housed an Indigenous Studies program. Although some Indigenous Studies courses are being offered this spring by Laurentian, the program’s future remains in question.

Meehan said the University of Sudbury is proud of what has been accomplished by the federated university in partnership with Indigenous communities. 

“We will continue to work with and support all of their initiatives to ensure that they will have an educational institution by, for and with Indigenous communities themselves,” he said.