Steelworkers Support Laurentian University Students, Faculty and Staff Amid Financial Crisis

Laurentian University Faculty Association
Laurentian University Staff Union
Laurentian University Student Associations

Dear colleagues,

The United Steelworkers union (USW) and its Local Unions 1998, 2010 and 4120, representing 12,000 employees at the University of Toronto, Queen’s University and the University of Guelph, support the students, faculty and staff of Laurentian University in calling for immediate intervention by the Ontario and federal governments to stop the insolvency proceedings at Laurentian and to provide funding to ensure the university’s long-term sustainability.

What is occurring at Laurentian University has further exposed a crisis that has long been building in Ontario’s university system. It is the most-extreme outcome to date of a broken funding model that leaves Ontario dead last in Canada in terms of per-student public funding and forces students to pay the highest tuition fees in the country. This deliberate erosion of public funding affects all universities but is particularly harmful to Ontario’s smaller and northern institutions such as Laurentian.

The effects of this funding crisis have been compounded by a coinciding erosion in transparent, accountable and traditional collegiality of university governance and administration. Laurentian and other universities have increasingly flouted their governing constitutions and bylaws, and cut out faculty, staff and students from decision-making processes.

The Laurentian University Faculty Association is to be praised for repeatedly sounding the alarm, warning that unaccountable, secretive governance and administration was leading to reckless decisions that only exacerbated the university’s financial problems. It is a travesty that such concerns have been ignored, not only by Laurentian’s administration and governors, but also by the Ontario government.

Indeed, it is a scandal in itself that the provincial government is feigning ignorance and surprise regarding the financial crisis at Laurentian, when in fact the government has four representatives on the university’s Board of Governors. Every step of the way, government representatives have been part of the disastrous, closed-door decision-making process at Laurentian.

Given its inexcusable failure of oversight and its worst-in-Canada funding model, the Ontario government is complicit in the unprecedented and preventable situation at Laurentian University. The government must intervene to stop the insolvency proceedings, immediately address the chronic underfunding at Laurentian and eliminate the threats facing the university’s students, faculty, staff and the communities it serves.

As well, in light of Laurentian’s tri-cultural mandate to support French, English and Indigenous communities – part of its unique role in the economic, social and cultural fabric of northeastern Ontario for over 60 years – the federal government also shares responsibility in securing the university’s future.

The crisis at Laurentian has laid bare the unquestionable need for systemic reforms to a university system plagued by underfunding and flawed governance and administrative structures. Laurentian, and all Ontario’s universities, must not be allowed to operate like profit-driven, private corporations where the education of students and the jobs of employees are subjected to the whims and perils of insolvency proceedings.

The members of United Steelworkers’ Local Unions 1998, 2010 and 4120, along with USW members everywhere in Ontario and across our country, wholeheartedly endorse your campaign for immediate provincial and federal intervention to secure Laurentian University’s long-term sustainability. We will stand with you every step of the way in this battle.

In solidarity,

Colleen Burke
USW Local 1998
(University of Toronto) 
Kelly J. Orser
USW Local 2010
(Queen’s University)
Liz Cherry
USW Local 4120
(University of Guelph)

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