Eduvation Blog

Compassion, Cruelty, and Pay Cuts

Good morning!

Apparently today is “College Student Grief Awareness Day,” and “That Sucks!” Day. Nobody will be feeling it more intensely than the Laurentian U community.

As you can imagine, more detail is emerging from Sudbury, more reactions and outrage from across Canada, and some early efforts to gather strength and look to the future. I’ll also recap some recent announcements of compassionate grading policies, although it’s hardly sufficient antidote…



Tremendous Sacrifice

Yes, more details have been trickling out since yesterday…


Of the 110 professors cut on Monday, 83 were terminated while 27 were cut through attrition and retirements.  CBC


“Without the provincial government at the table, we were in an impossible position. It now appears clear that this was the outcome that both Laurentian’s senior administration and Minister Romano were working toward.”Fabrice Colin, Laurentian U Faculty Association president


Varsity Swimming and Hockey programs for men and women have been discontinued as of Apr 30. LU Voyageurs will continue to compete in OUA and USports for 9 other sports.  LU


Despite recruiting new hockey players for the 2021-22 season, just weeks ago. The women’s hockey team announced 7 new recruits, but suggested they not do media interviews.  Lambda


5% pay cuts were included in that new 5-year collective agreement Laurentian faculty ratified yesterday, the day after layoffs terminated almost one-third of tenured profs without any provision for severance pay. (Fired profs can get in line in CCAA court.) The new collective agreement also included a salary freeze for 2 years, and 5 furlough days a year for 3 years. Faculty in Science, Engineering and Architecture agreed to increased teaching hours. All employees have had their pay cut, including administrators.  Globe & Mail


“I had one girl text me yesterday wondering if a Laurentian degree would be respectable anymore.”Lexey Burns, Editor, Laurentian Lambda




The outrage continues, from Sudbury and across Canada, starting (naturally) with the employee unions…


Laurentian issued a media statement yesterday celebrating the ratified agreements between LU’s board and “its two largest labour partners,” which “reflect the tremendous commitment and sacrifice of all faculty and staff to the University and its future.” The new 5-year faculty collective agreement (retroactive to June 2020) and the amendments to the existing staff collective agreement (with 3 years remaining).  LU


OCUFA and LUFA held a press conference yesterday to once again call for the resignation of Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano, as well as LU president Robert Haché, board chair Claude Lacroix, provost Marie-Josée Berger, VP Administration Lorella Hayes, and registrar Serge Demers. “Minister Romano has demonstrated the same resistance to consultation, transparency and accountability as the Laurentian administration.”


“The administration that so poorly navigated this crisis must not be the same administration tasked with plotting a course forward.”Fabrice Colin, Laurentian U Faculty Association president



OPSEU is calling on the province to step in and block employee layoffs by providing Laurentian more funding. “There is an alternative and that is to do the right thing. The government must step up and make sure Laurentian has the resources to provide the same quality education that learning centres in southern Ontario offer.” Moreover, says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas, “treating terminated employees like any other creditor in terms of severance obligations is plain wrong.”  Education News Canada


“Gutting the university’s programs is not going to save Laurentian, and the government shouldn’t go along with this.”Eduardo Almeida, First VP, OPSEU



Yesterday uOttawa take a public stand in solidarity with Laurentian. Now, the Quebec government and the federal House of Commons are chiming in…


Quebec’s National Assembly unanimously denounced the cuts to French-language programs at LU yesterday, adopting a PQ motion without debate. On Tuesday, the House of Commons adopted a BQ motion unanimously, expressing “concern.” Yesterday the NDP called on the Trudeau government to come to Laurentian’s rescue.  Montreal Gazette


In Ottawa, Parliament agreed to hold an emergency debate last night about the LU situation at the request of NDP MP Charlie Angus.  Globe & Mail


The “colonial version of indigenization” is what Tasha Beeds, assistant prof at uSudbury, sees in LU’s treatment of the federated universities. “Laurentian will take the entire Indigenous Studies departments, program, classes, history… all of the Indigenous minds, intellectual legacies, heart and thought, and they will take that and profit from it.”  Laurentian Lambda



Laurentian 2.0

Although I’m not among them (you may have noticed that), there are some people out there finding upsides and silver linings to the decimation going on at Laurentian. Here are some I’ve noticed, beyond president Haché, whom I’ve already cited this week, speaking optimistically of the “Laurentian 2.0” that will emerge from the ashes…


Vive l’Université Libre

For many Francophones in Northern Ontario, the fight for cultural identity is intertwined with Laurentian’s French-language programs – more than half of which were razed to the ground on Monday. Many fear an exodus of youth, who will go south to study as a result, and accelerate the north’s demographic decline. If there is an upside, it is that the trauma of this week “is fomenting a movement that has been in place for some time,” agitating for university education in the north under “governance by, for, and with Francophones.” An autonomous francophone institution could “rebuild French-language university education based on the needs of the Francophone community and thus protect the distinctiveness of the French fact on campus.” In other words, “Que vive le projet de l’Université de Sudbury. Que vive l’Université Libre du Nouvel-Ontario!”


Turnaround through Innovation

COVID19 is exposing long-standing fault lines in higher education, explains Kevin Kee, Dean of Arts at uOttawa, and it is crucial that we “build back better before the foundation has crumbled.” Rather like LU, his Faculty had been operating at a deficit for a decade, with enrolment in freefall and debt approaching half of annual income. Back in 2015, they undertook research, developed a strategy, and focused on program renewal and innovation, launching new interdisciplinary offerings, pioneering new delivery models and formats. “We knew in our hearts and minds what biologists have shown in their labs: ecosystems — whether biological or intellectual — thrive on diversity.” While humanities enrolments declined across Canada, they saw +54% growth in applicants and +20% in enrolments in just the first year. After 5 years, international enrolments have quadrupled. “Having campuses with appropriate financial support and updated innovative academic programming is one way forward to a better future.”  Ottawa Citizen


Survival Depends on Transformation

“Universities are at a crossroads,” write former uCalgary president Elizabeth Cannon and Sr Assoc Dean of Business Loren Falkenberg – and not just in Sudbury. Demographics are shifting, government funding is dropping, and online delivery gives a strong advantage to top-ranked global brands, be they universities or corporations like Google. Enrolments are shifting to professional programs. Performance-based funding and donor restrictions mean that “government and philanthropic funding are increasingly influencing how programs develop.” But universities are “constrained by their extensive physical and technical infrastructures,” and tenured faculty “remain convinced the traditional university structure provides the greatest value to society.” To survive, universities must make “tough decisions.” Australia’s uSydney eliminated 10 faculties and 100 programs last fall. (uAlberta’s restructuring also comes to mind, although they don’t mention it.) To “future proof” a university, faculty and staff from across the institution, and community members outside, must share their knowledge and data, reach a common understanding of the challenges and disruptions ahead, and be deeply engaged in developing a strategy to reach a shared vision of the future. “Universities without a visible strategy will not flourish and may not even survive.”  The Conversation



Compassionate Policies

Alternative grading policies have quieted down considerably this year, since I last reported a batch of announcements on Jan 15. But there have been a few announcements since then…

uCalgary announced Mar 31 that student can convert up to 1 course grade of C- or higher in the Winter 2021 term to CR. (The threshold for grad students is B-.) D grades and below cannot be changed.

uToronto Scarborough student union SCSU launched a campaign last month calling for the extension of an expanded CR/NCR policy until the end of the pandemic. (Current policy is that up to 2 credits can be converted, but only breadth requirements and electives, not program requirements.) UTSC’s Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU) has also been campaigning for a permanent change.  The Varsity

Wilfrid Laurier U senate announced Apr 12 that, for Winter 2021, Spring 2021, and “until the academic disruption caused by COVID19 is declared over,” students will be able to convert 0.5 CR per term (to a maximum of 1.0 CR per degree) to Credit. (There is no option to convert a failing grade to WD.) Any courses converted in 2020 do not count towards the maximum, but the limit is to address “reputational and academic risk.”   WLU

uWindsor announced last month “an opt-in alternative grading system” for the Winter 2021 semester. Eligible students can request a Pass/Non-Pass grade for 1 course, or voluntarily withdraw from a course without academic penalty. (Some students in Law or Education are not eligible.)  UW

It may be telling that this latest batch of announcements (again, only from universities) limit students to 1 course per term, and 2 out of 3 do NOT offer a late WDL option. As the pandemic drags on across multiple terms, senates and registrars are clearly concerned about relaxing grading policies too much.



COVID on Campus

Since yesterday, there have been 19 more cases of COVID19 reported by CdnPSEs. (See my master spreadsheet for a running tally of 2,300+ cases in CdnPSE since Sept 2020.)  

Brock U now reports 67 cases of COVID19 among students in residence (up from 60 last Friday). 65 have recovered and 2 remain active, while 3 students are in isolation on campus.  Brock News

Loyalist College reported a case on campus yesterday.  Loyalist

Red River College reported a case at its Notre Dame campus yesterday.  RRC

Ryerson U has confirmed 7 cases among students in an outbreak at the Pitman Hall residence, unrelated to the outbreak among contract cleaners reported previously.  Ryerson

Sheridan College reports 2 cases (which appear to be students) at its Oakville campus, who have not been on campus since Apr 3. “The cohort involved” is either self-isolating or self-monitoring, and “no other classes are being dismissed or impacted.”  Inside Halton

Trent U reported another case yesterday linked to the Champlain College residence in Peterborough.  Trent





I meant to share this one from Monday…


Rant Like David

The pan and zoom shots in this 1-min “walk and talk” video from David Malloy, principal at King’s UC (at Western), bring back fond memories of Rick Mercer’s “rants” – although Malloy’s message on Monday, the last day of classes, was less rant than pep talk. “You’ve made it through another COVID semester, and this you should be proud of… Own your talents and own who you’ve become. The world is waiting for you.” The video, shot by Ryan Robinson (nice work Ryan) was posted on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.  YouTube



As always, thanks for reading – even on days when “It Sucks.” Please do drop me a line if you spot something interesting, thought-provoking or cool happening on your campus, or elsewhere in the world!

 One of these days I will learn my lesson, and stop promising what I’ll cover the next day… emerging events keep derailing my plans. We’ll see what tomorrow brings… meanwhile, stay safe and be well!



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