Self-Driving Shuttle Bus Coming to Waterloo Campus

A self-driving shuttle bus – the first at any academic institution in Canada – could be operating on the Ring Road at the University of Waterloo by the time students return to campus for in-person classes as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

A research team led by Amir Khajepour, a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering, has spent four years and well over $1 million on the autonomous bus project, dubbed WATonoBus, and is now doing final testing to ensure it can handle winter weather.

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Lakehead on Solid Ground

Lakehead U felt it necessary, in the wake of Laurentian’s declared insolvency, to reassure the community that its own fiscal position is solid. The 2 northern Ontario institutions are comparable in size, and face many similar challenges, but Lakehead has largely adhered to balanced budgets since 2004, and implemented cost-containment strategies to ensure no deficit, even in this pandemic year. Although Lakehead has more debt, it is mostly the result of capital investments rather than cumulative deficits – and Lakehead has been growing its international student revenues since 2016, despite being the smaller of the two institutions.  TBnewswatch

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LU Couldn’t Make Payroll

According to its CCAA filing, Laurentian U “couldn’t meet payroll obligations for February.” An unnamed source told the Toronto Star that the province offered a $12M lifeline to cover payroll for Feb and Mar, but the University allegedly insisted that “heading to court was the only option.” The Faculty Association claims the administration’s past financial practices have been “poorly considered and reckless,” and lacking in transparency. OCUFA and CFS-O are urging the government to provide more long-term funding. Last week, Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano said he was “working with our colleagues across government, and certainly with our institutions” to determine where best to use “ultimately limited resources to try and remedy [COVID19 losses] the best we can.” He made it clear, however, that he was not talking about financial issues that “quite frankly pre-date COVID.”  Toronto Star

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Laurentian in Creditor Protection

On Feb 1, Laurentian U took the “unprecedented” and “drastic” step of launching a formal debt restructuring under the CCAA, filing for creditor protection and court monitoring (via Ernst & Young). After a decade of “recurring deficits, declining demographics in Northern Ontario, the closure of our Barrie campus in 2019 and the domestic tuition reduction and freeze that was implemented in 2019,” the “various costs and revenue impacts due to the global pandemic” were the last straw.  “Despite our best efforts over the last year, Laurentian is insolvent.” 

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