Eduvation Blog

Division of the Western Kingdoms

Good morning! 

I learned my lesson yesterday, trying to cover a complex topic like Laurentian’s insolvency proceedings while also providing updates on fall plans and COVID19. Today, a break from pandemic coverage, so we can focus on one topic in depth (and I can get more sleep). For now, just assume that COVID19 variants are spreading faster, provinces are imposing stricter restrictions, and AstraZeneca has new PR headaches… the details can wait.

Laurentian’s treatment of its federated universities is alarming to staff, faculty and students there, to the community of Sudbury, and to the francophone and Indigenous communities they serve. But the abruptness of this extinction-level event for 3 affiliated religious colleges has caught the attention of many others. We can probably expect more affiliated colleges to contemplate taking their destiny into their own hands, and we see that happening right now at Huron UC, at Western.

I’ll spend the whole issue today on that issue, but first…




A handful of addenda to recent stories…


Laurentian/Huntington Deal

Last night, Laurentian U announced agreement with federated university Huntington U on the terms to be implemented “following the disclaimer of the Federation Agreement” effective May 1. While no courses will be taught at HU for credit towards an LU degree, HU’s Gerontology program has been “acquired” by LU. (A spokesperson told CBC it is “exclusively a transfer of course materials,” suggesting that no faculty will be acquired with the program. The HU Chair finds it hard to think of the online program being delivered by “somebody else.”) Without degree-granting authority, it’s hard to tell what is meant by “Huntington will continue as an independent university and own and operate its buildings on the Laurentian campus, including its residence.”


Remember Barbra Streisand?

The “Streisand Effect” was named for the internet phenomenon in which lawyers’ attempts to suppress content (say, a photo of a reclusive singer’s beach house) cause it to go even more viral. I mentioned last Thursday that U du Québec à Montréal had sued a student for $125,000, for posting semi-nude photos including UQAM’s logo. Yesterday, UQAM announced it was pausing the lawsuit to “pursue negotiations” instead. Could it be because “dozens of people… posted their own suggestive photos online featuring their diplomas or the university logo as a show of solidarity”? The hashtag #papaUQAM resulted in dozens of lingerie pics featuring the UQAM logo prominently.  National Post


More Mandatory Vaccinations

Yesterday I mentioned that students will need vaccinations to return to campus this fall at Rutgers, Notre Dame, Roger Williams U (RI), Cornell U (NY), and Nova Southeastern U (FL) – which will also require employees to be fully vaccinated by Aug 1. Since then, those institutions have been joined by Brown U (RI), Fort Lewis College (CO), Northeastern U (MA), Oakland U (MI), and St Edwards U (TX). Johnson County Community College (KS) is offering its employees $250 to get vaccinated. And a QS survey of 2,500 current and prospective international students found that 65% were open to getting vaccinated, and 50% thought universities should require it. (So, although nobody in CdnPSE has announced anything like it yet, isn’t it inevitable that someone will?)


Canada’s School of Metal

I awarded pride of place among 2021 April Fools’ entries to Southern Connecticut State U, for an amusing video launching their new “School of Metal,” based on “swelling demand from headbangers everywhere.” Thanks to eagle-eyed reader Mike Allcott, though, I now know that Canada really does have a School of Metal: the Metalworks Institute in Mississauga, founded by Triumph drummer Gil Moore. And now you know too!(Behind every good Apr 1 jest there’s always a kernel of truth, I guess…)



Division of the Kingdoms

Most of the world’s earliest universities were first established as religious institutions, and Canada was no different. (That’s just part of the reason decolonization is hard.) As Alex Usher pointed out earlier this week, the introduction of public funding for secular universities in Ontario prompted “a rash of federation agreements” in which older, denominational colleges established non-sectarian federations, such as Trinity, Victoria and St Michael’s at uToronto; Grebel, Renison, St Jerome’s and St Paul’s at uWaterloo; or Huntington, Thorneloe and uSudbury at Laurentian. In the end, the younger, publicly-funded universities outgrew their parents. In Ontario alone there are 27 religious federated or affiliated university colleges – for now.

Yesterday we looked in some detail at the sad way in which Laurentian (the child) is now unilaterally dispossessing its federated universities (the parents), rather like Regan and Goneril turn on poor old King Lear. (My doctoral research into textual evidence of authorial revision in Shakespeare was part of a trend back in the 1980s, exemplified by Gary Taylor and Michael Warren’s “The Division of the Kingdoms,” about the 2 very different texts of King Lear. The metaphor seems to work when we talk about dissolution of university federations too.)

Today, let’s look at a quite different proposal, being initiated by the affiliate college…



Huron University College

Huron UC, founded in 1863 by the Anglican Diocese of Huron, was the progenitor of the University of Western Ontario, established 15 years later in 1878. For more than 140 years, Huron has been affiliated with Western, joined much later by 2 Catholic affiliates, Brescia UC (founded in 1919 as Ursuline College) and King’s UC (founded as Christ the King College in 1954). Huron is governed by its own act of provincial parliament from 2000, which provides for an executive board and an academic council, but it does not grant its own degrees, other than Divinity and Theology degrees. It appointed its first board of governors in February this year, following new provincial enabling legislation last December.


Terms of Affiliation

Western’s relationships with Huron, Brescia and King’s are contractual, and subject to revision every 5 years or so. (I’m aware of agreements dated Nov 2006, Jun 2013, and Jul 2019, but will focus on the latter two.) The 2013 Affiliation Agreement seems to implicitly reflect the imbalance of power between the parties, despite much positive spin about “demonstrable mutuality of benefit” and “collaboration wherever possible.” Affiliates like Huron are to stay “primarily at the undergraduate level,” cannot introduce “duplicative” courses or programs, and must establish entrance requirements, tuition levels, curricula and examinations “at least equal” to those established by Western’s Senate “from time to time.” Western reserves for itself all courses in Natural Sciences and all BSc programs, most professional faculties, and upper-year Business courses. The affiliates must provide lists of courses and instructors to Western’s registrar 7 months in advance, and Western’s Senate dictates every iota of protocol for convocations at the affiliate colleges, which must remain secular. As of 2015, the affiliates agreed to pay 12% of enrolment-related grants and tuition revenue to Western as compensation for student services and cross-teaching of courses. Huron students must also pay Western student activity fees, comply with Western codes of conduct, and are “re-registered” by Western’s Registrar, who can make “final and binding” decisions on admissions, and ultimately grants them Western degrees upon graduation. And section 31 (ominous for Star Trek fans) specifies that the agreement can be terminated by either party with 3 academic years’ notice, or “at any time by mutual agreement.”


Endearment of Terms

A new 2019 Affiliation Agreement superceded that of 2013. Notably it now references Western’s Strategic Mandate Agreement with the province and the AVP Student Experience, streamlines discussion of mutual library access, distinguishes between compulsory and optional ancillary fees, elaborates on potential academic partnerships and articulation agreements, and revises the management of OSAP and summer billing. The advance notice of courses and instructors is reduced from 7 months to 4.5 months, and the agreement no longer terminates automatically if the affiliate ceases to be a “denominational institution.” (Western retains the right to terminate the agreement immediately if “such change in status is detrimental” to it, though.) Minimum entering grade averages at the affiliates are required to rise to 80% by 2022, except for Indigenous students. A new clause has also been added to encourage a “referral process” for applicants “unlikely to receive an offer” from Western. The affiliation fee section now includes language to allow for Ontario’s new funding models, but remains at 12% until the next renewal of the agreement (although rather more examples are listed of cost-recovery services).


Declaration of Independence

Back on Feb 22, I shared that Huron was contemplating academic independence, establishing its own Senate and granting its own degrees, starting with the graduating class of 2026. Huron indicated that it hoped to negotiate ongoing access to Western’s health services, libraries and recreation facilities for its students, but that the arrangement would give Huron much more autonomy to launch new programs and set its own admissions requirements and curriculum. Extensive consultation was planned before the Huron Board of Governors was to vote on the question, and then it would likely take 4-6 months for the province to award degree-granting authority.  Western Gazette



The STU Experience

President Barry Craig came to Huron in 2016 after 15 years at St Thomas U (NB), where he served as VP Academic for 6 years. Clearly his experience with that form of affiliation has helped shape his vision for a new deal at Huron. STU shares campus facilities and services with UNB but grants its own degrees and has “autonomy over the academic file.” The government grant that flows to Huron via Western is just 13% of its operating budget, but Huron is “mostly secular now,” so such funding could be direct. Huron has been at a disadvantage because it remains ineligible for direct funding from the provincial government, for operations or capital investments.  University Affairs


Just a Small “Tweak”

Craig assured the CBC that “the intention is not to cease being affiliated,” but merely to gain “the degree of autonomy that any other university has.” Although the entire affiliation agreement would need to be renegotiated, Craig hopes merely to change the components about academic programs, admissions, and degrees. His proposal goes before Western’s board of governors in July, and then on to Huron’s board in August.  CBC


“Our goal is to negotiate an agreement with Western such that all the desirable elements of affiliation, all the things that students value and that we see as valuable and that Western sees valuable will remain untouched and I’m optimistic that we can find an agreement that works for all parties.”Barry Craig, president, Huron UC



Huron’s Vision

In conversation with me yesterday, Barry Craig observed that Huron has gained immense momentum over the past 5 years, despite the “headwinds” challenging liberal arts institutions. Huron’s first-year enrolments have more than doubled (from 250 in 2017 to 530 today), first-choice applicants have risen 420%, and entering grade averages have risen from 81% to 90%. Huron is advancing a mission to develop “Leaders with Heart,” with guaranteed paid internships for all students, partnerships with Ivey and Harvard, and ambitions to provide more generous full-ride scholarships to diverse students, admitted not just for their high school grades but also their community involvement. Greater academic autonomy will permit Huron to realize this vision, develop courses and programs that better fit with its values, and to set tuition rates independently. (Last year Western raised international tuition 8% and Huron had to do likewise.)


“We believe that this move for Huron will enhance the student experience, respond to an increasingly competitive environment for students, and will position us for the future while still maintaining the best of our relationship with Western.”Jonathan Munn, Director of Marketing and Communications, Huron UC



Western’s Perspective

Although Western president Alan Shepard has been tactful and circumspect, he did tell campus media that Huron’s proposal would “profoundly change” the relationship between Huron and Western, and that the existing arrangement for cross-teaching and access to campus services would likely not continue in the same form. “I don’t think that will be fiscally responsible,” he said. Western’s Senate and Board of Governors will need to approve the academic and financial agreements, respectively.  Western Gazette


Student Opposition

In late March, Huron’s student council (HUCSC) unanimously objected to the disaffiliation proposal, citing a “lack of due process” and consultation, a “lack of sufficiently justified urgency,” and concerns about future access to Western services. Huron students currently enjoy access to Western facilities, libraries, courses, varsity athletics, student clubs, support services, health insurance, the alumni network, discounted bus passes, and much more. If Huron students ceased to be enrolled Western students, HUCSC would need to renegotiate its own affiliation agreement with Western’s student council, or significantly increase the scale of its own staffing and operations. HUCSC released a 29-page report, “Our Stance in Opposition,” which outlines their concerns at length, and reports that 94% of surveyed Huron students felt the affiliation with Western influenced their decision to attend, and 92% opposed the idea of disaffiliation as they understood it now. HUCSC is demanding the Huron decision be delayed until students have more input.  HUCSC Report


“If Brexit has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t stop paying your club membership and still expect the benefits.”Editorial Board, Western Gazette



The Latest Word

President Barry Craig reiterated to campus media yesterday that Huron does not aim to “disaffiliate,” but simply to alter the academic component of the affiliation agreement. “We won’t sign any new agreement unless our current students are all protected and get the experience that they signed up for. We are still operating under the current affiliation agreement and we’ll stay under that until we find a satisfactory [replacement]… but we will not sign any agreement that takes away from what current students have.” Only if the Huron board of governors votes in favour of negotiation, in August, would Huron begin formal negotiations with Western. Western Gazette




OK, it’s not a video, but it’s amusing and relevant, though I missed it in my April Fools roundup



Huron Absorbs Western

In an Apr 1 “spoof issue” of the Western Gazette, student journalists reported that newly independent Huron University College “will now centralize Western’s services under the Huron brand.” The article cites Huron president “Carrie Braig” on the prestigious value of a Huron degree, which will cost Western students an extra $2,500 in tuition, and plans to convert the Amit Chakma Engineering building to liberal arts purposes. Apparently the consultation process was remarkably smooth: “after rigorous consultations lasting two days and a livestreamed coin toss that drew an audience of Western and Huron students alike, the coin landed with the beaver face-up — affirming the transition.”  Western Gazette



As always, thanks for reading! Please drop me a line if you spot something interesting, thought-provoking or cool happening on your campus, or elsewhere in the world!

Stay safe and be well,


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