Faculty union blasts ‘unprecedented’ 29 program cuts at Fleming College

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Fleming College receives blowback after cutting 29 programs
A day after announcing cuts to programming, members of the Fleming College community continue to search for answers. The college blamed the federal government after announcing 29 programs would be phased out. As Robert Lothian reports, staff and students are now fearing the impact – Apr 25, 2024

Unions representing staff at Fleming College based in Peterborough, Ont., say they were caught by surprise by this week’s announcement that 29 programs will be phased out starting this fall.

On Wednesday, Fleming announced the extensive program changes, citing several funding shortfalls including a new federal cap on international students. In Ontario, 141,000 student permits are expected to be approved for 2024 — a 41 per cent decrease from the more than 239,000 student visas issued in 2023.

Approximately 30 per cent of the student population at Fleming’s three campuses — in Peterborough, Lindsay and Haliburton — comes from outside Canada.

College president Maureen Adamson declined interview requests from Global News following the announcements of course closures. Global News obtained a letter Adamson issued to staff on Wednesday, stating the federal cap and the end of some private partnerships has had a “profound impact on college operations.”

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The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Locals 351 and 352 says the college’s decisions caught them off-guard, especially since the college already cut a dozen programs a year ago.

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Local 351 represents Fleming’s faculty and councillors and Local 352 represents support staff. Both local presidents say no consultation was conducted leading ahead of Wednesday’s “unprecedented” announcement.

“This is unprecedented — this number of programs that have been cut,” said Liz Mathewson, president of Local 352.  “In my experience, we haven’t seen this level of program cuts for decades. We already lost about 13 programs last June and now we’re losing another 29.”

Marcia Steeves, Local 351 president, also described the cuts as “unprecedented,” adding: “(The) timing of it doesn’t really jive with what our natural school year would be. We have potential students who would have been attending next fall that have been impacted this week.”

Fleming stated current students would not be impacted by the program changes, however, Steeves disputes that claim.

“The college put out there’s no direct impact to current students but that’s just false,” she said. “We have students that literally just graduated from a two-year program that were hoping to come back into other programs. We don’t know know what lies ahead for them. They cut those pathways off. There are pathways into some of these programs and some of these programs were their exit pathways into great jobs.”

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At Fleming’s Frost campus in Lindsay, student-association vice-president Lea Roy-Bernatchez says the decisions will slash about 50 per cent of the campus’s programs.

“I actually had friends as well who were planning to go to these programs that now are suspended,” she said.

Roy-Bernatchez says many prospective students will now be left scrambling to determine their academic futures.

“Because a lot of students had received letters-of-offer and they are now being told the programs they wanted to do in the fall are now being suspended,” she said.

Mathewson says staffing cuts are imminent. Exact numbers have yet to be determined.

“There’s a process to attempt to salvage some work, but we know that the contract faculty are the most precarious employees who will be hit the hardest,” she said.

Mathewson says the program cuts will leave a “huge impact” on the college and community.

“There’s a huge impact to the students coming to the college, a huge impact to the community who wont have the graduates from thee programs and our community relies heavily on many of these graduates,” she said.

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