Friday, April 16, 2021

University implosion

AVI posted recently on the "lot of ruin in a university", and a fine example popped up this week.

Laurentian university got a judge to declare them insolvent, and cut 69 academic programs and 110 faculty jobs (and 36 administrators--so I think they're serious). "The university estimates that 10 percent of undergraduates are affected by the program closures."

If you want a weepy description "This is Canada's big mining town. Right? This is the mining university for Ontario. And I see that they haven't cut that part of the university." That's supposed to be a bad thing, BTW. and "Francophone students are being told that their education, language and culture aren't worth saving." and "These cuts counter the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Call to Action #16: 'We call upon post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.'"

The university argued in court filings that its operations are inefficient: There are too many faculty, too many programs and classes are too small. More than half the university’s courses have fewer than 15 students, the court documents say. So almost 1/3 of the teachers are let go, and the U. claims this touches only 10% of the undergrads.

It has debts of nearly $100-million from a building spree that didn’t produce enrolment gains and it ran deficits in the range of $2-million to $5-million a year for several years, according to its court filings. It also spent millions in grants earmarked for research to keep the lights on, owing in part to the practice of having just one bank account where incoming funds from various sources were mixed.

That's a couple of big red flags--I think the latter might be fraud. And when you look at the list of closures it looks like they bit off more than a college of 6000 could chew (Biomedical Physics, three different Environmental programs).

The image of program cuts at the daily nous seems to differ from that above--Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies cut but Equite, diversite et droits de la personne (both languages) stays, as does Criminology in both languages, and Motion Picture Arts goes away. I'm not sure how to reconcile those lists. "Women’s and Men’s Varsity Swimming and Hockey programs will be discontinued", but basketball, soccer, golf, etc remain. AVI found their current undergrad program list. I'm not sure how a few of the Econ courses will be without some math courses to back them up: Mathematical Economics looks like quite a semester's worth.

They had a "tricultural mandate." English, French, and Anishinaabemowin. This sounds spread very thin.

Of course the Prime Minister is talking about this, and I've no notion of how the dust will finally settle. If I were deciding the cuts I'd have chosen differently, ashcanning more of the gender/diversity stuff and trying to keep their famous midwifery program, but I suspect most of these were made with a simple #students/#faculty threshold. That probably hits francophone courses harder. C'est la guerre.

My take-away is that the current administration decided they didn't want to spend years talking to faculty and not meeting payroll, but decided to bite the bullet and see if they could save something from the university, at the cost of some of their semi-sacred cows. They'll get a lot of flack--I wonder if they have the spine to hold on. Either way the result could be interesting. Wild card--how many of the current decision-makers were involved in the misuse of research funds?

No comments: