Faculty at a northern Ontario university are pushing back against the school’s move to suspend admission to more than a dozen programs this fall, which they say will reduce the already limited options for francophone students in the province.
Administrators at Laurentian University in Sudbury are attributing the decision to declining enrolment in the 17 programs, including anthropology and theatre.
But Jean−Charles Cachon, a management professor who is also secretary and treasurer of the school’s faculty association, said fluctuating enrolment numbers are normal.
“More than half the programs that are being cut are in French, so some of these students will be taking the same program most likely in English, because most students going to Laurentian are not mobile for various reasons,” Cachon said.
Laurentian is one of just a few universities in Ontario that offer French−language courses, and Cachon said suspending admission to such programs is tantamount to cancelling them altogether.
“The minute you suspend registration in the program, it’s the end of that program, because you basically create a self−fulfilling prophecy,” Cachon said. “People are not going to register if program is suspended. And then next year, (administration is) going to say, ’Oh, well, there has been no registration in the program last year, therefore, we can’t continue offering the program.’”
Of particular concern, he said, is the decision to suspend the French−language math program. He noted that math courses are mandatory for would−be high school math teachers.
Cachon said the faculty association has filed documents in court in a bid to prevent the admissions from being cancelled, arguing that administration cannot unilaterally end programs.
University President Robert Hache said it’s important to note that the programs are not being cancelled outright: returning students will be able to complete their degrees and course offerings won’t be affected.
He said administrators decided to suspend admissions to the programs because they are no longer appealing to students, and have seen a steady decline in sign−ups over several years.
There are still other courses and programs in the same fields of study as the suspended programs, Hache said, such as a geography major program that students can opt for instead of the struggling geography specialization.
He added that it could be seen as a chance to develop courses that are of greater interest to students.
“I’ve already heard about a number of good conversations that are happening amongst faculty members in the units in which some of these programs have been affected, looking for ways to enhance their programs to do new and better things,” he said. “So you know, whether these return in the same form or in a renewed and improved form, I think that’s really the opportunity.”
—with files from Salmaan Farooqui
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
© The Canadian Press