Laurentian University could have avoided creditor protection, Ontario auditor says

Click to play video: 'Laurentian University’s cuts stun professors, students'
Laurentian University’s cuts stun professors, students
WATCH ABOVE: In a move to battle bankruptcy, Laurentian University has eliminated dozens of professors and programs. Eric Sorensen explains how the budget cuts deal a major blow to academia in Ontario – Apr 13, 2021

TORONTO — Ontario’s auditor general says a northern university that filed for creditor protection last year could have avoided that move, which led to huge program and job cuts.

A report today from Bonnie Lysyk says Laurentian University could have done more to seek financial help from the government.

She writes that the university raised the potential filing in August 2020 to the minister of colleges and universities, but didn’t explicitly say how much money was needed to avoid insolvency.

The auditor says a specific request wasn’t made until December 2020 — two months before the university ultimately filed — at which point the request of government was too large, on too short a time frame.

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She also says opting for creditor protection allowed Laurentian to bypass collective agreement provisions and “effectively terminate” more senior employees and some long-standing grievances.

The auditor says the university eliminated 36 per cent of its programs and terminated 195 staff and faculty members “with little notice and severance.”

Lysyk says while tuition freezes and the COVID-19 pandemic affected Laurentian’s finances, the main cause of its money troubles was “its pursuit of poorly considered capital investments.”

Laurentian said it welcomed the report and would fully review it as the university seeks to correct its past “shortcomings.”

“We will carefully examine her findings as we build a new foundation for success and take steps to ensure Laurentian can never repeat the mistakes of the past,” Jeff Bangs, the interim chair of the Laurentian University board of governors, said in a statement.

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