Quebec college ‘raises fears of threats’

Image copyright HANDOUT Image caption The AG says that food wastage and paying teachers less than their counterparts elsewhere is wrong

Laurentian University’s behaviour has been “dysfunctional” and created a “culture of fear” among staff members, according to a damning report by the provincial Liberal party.

The subject is one of the topics addressed in the report released by Premier Philippe Couillard last week after he referred to staffers in his cabinet as “mudslingers” in May.

The principal of Laurentian, Maude Hardenbergh, has denied having mistreated the staff in question or those who requested an audit.

Ms Hardenbergh did not comment on Tuesday, on the eve of a federal election in which the issue of private colleges and universities was raised.

Mr Couillard has been sharply criticised by opposition parties and has faced a backlash from the governing Liberals’ caucus, for being too critical of Laurentian’s leaders.

He has also faced censure from the Liberal Party’s right-wing Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) faction.

Mr Couillard defended his characterisation of all aspects of Laurentian as “problematic”, and said that all accusations would be investigated in depth.

But the report that is now being considered by a legislative committee, highlighted cases that might warrant an inquiry.

An analysis has been conducted of the salaries of four francophone and three anglophone employees at Laurentian.

The independent audit says that senior staff at the institution pay less than their counterparts in other institutions of higher learning in the region.

“Laurentian creates a culture of fear and intimidation at the bottom of an organisation that stops others from taking action to improve its operations,” said the AG.

Laurentian has stated that it will not comply with the report’s recommendations.

‘No slack’

The report says that the school is maintaining an empty Laurentian building on the St-Jérôme campus.

It also criticises the “low level of contribution” to the campus of the existing La Grand Débutant café restaurant.

“The value of money is not respected in the dining room. Paying a few dollars less (to restaurants and local carts) is not proof of that,” it adds.

Mr Couillard was quoted by the Ottawa Citizen as saying that “in certain domains, the university needs to be more disciplined”.

He added that “no-one has been mistreated” and that he would ask the institution’s board to assess concerns raised in the report.

The report says that “only a complete change in the management and leadership of Laurentian” can end problems like the payment of low salaries and inefficiencies in the university’s purchasing processes.

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