The decade in Laurier news

While growth in Waterloo and multi-campus expansion have certainly been the most talked about issues at the university over the past 10 years the decade has also seen many important news stories that have both shaped the school and defined Laurier as an institution. These are the top 10 stories reported by The Cord in the 2000s.

1. $8.9 million budget cuts

In June 2009 it was announced that the university would be cutting $8.9 million from its operating budget. Various departments across the university were asked to make significant cuts, such as athletics, where eight varsity teams lost funding. The vice-president of academics department was hit the hardest, having to cut five per cent of its overall budget. As a result class sizes at the university increased significantly, and the 23:1 student to faculty ratio is no longer being followed.

-Reported June 24, 2009

2. 50 day staff strike

In September 2002 the Wilfrid Laurier University Staff Association (WLUSA) went on strike, for a total of 50 days. After nearly two months of struggle an agreement was finally met after both parties agreed to have one delegate from each team negotiate over the phone. Though the agreement was ratified by WLUSA many members expressed that they were dissatisfied. The main issue for contention between the university and WLUSA was the contracting out positions, because the staff association felt that this infringed on job security. During the strike administrative assistants were not working, labs and tutorials were cancelled and the bookstore was slow in printing and receiving course packages, upsetting many professors. Many other services were slowed down, such as the library, health services and ITS. Fall convocation was also cancelled this year because of the labour dispute.

-Reported November and December 2002

3. Student dies in residence fire

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First-year student David LaForest died as a result of burn injuries he received in a fire that broke out in his residence room on April 14, 2009. The following September police confirmed that the student likely started the fire. The total damages to the residence – that evacuated 320 students living in Waterloo College Hall in the midst of exams – cost $1.3 million.

Repairs took place over the summer and were completed just in time for students to move back into the building in September.

No official results have been made public about the cause of the fire, though Waterloo Regional Police Services confirmed that some type of accelerant was used. LaForest was a player on Laurier’s men’s rugby team and for the 2009 season they held a moment of silence before each game in honour of him.

-Reported May 20, 2009

4. Riots at frat party

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The annual Pikecoming event, hosted by the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was reduced to chaos after a large group of attendees caused damage and assaulted volunteers. Approximately 1,650 people were in attendance of the off-campus event held at Woolwich field at the Rod and Gun Club. When the kegs ran dry the party got out of control; damages exceeded $1000, including deposits for buses. Hired Foot Patrol, BACCHUS and ERT volunteers were spit on and harassed while they were trying to control the crowd.

Though the event was planned for the following year, the Greek Council threatened to suspend the Pikes if they held the off-campus party. Though the group hosted a homecoming party again in 2007, the 2003 event plagued the relationships between the university and Greek Life for years to come.

-Reported Oct. 1, 2003

5. LSPIRG forms as a campus group

In the 2006 Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union AGM 50.9 per cent of students voted to incorporate the Laurier Students Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG), an on-campus group working to promote social change in the community. The group had been operating as campus club under WLUSU since 2001, but with the 2006 vote they became an official independent group on campus. In 2008 LSPIRG also started hosting a Complementary O-Week to give students an orientation alternative to the events run by WLUSU. The formation of LSPIRG created several opportunities for Laurier students to get involved and volunteer on campus outside of the students’ union.

-Reported Feb. 8, 2006

6. Football players arrested for criminal activities; suspended

In 2003 two members of the Laurier football team – Jeff Melis and Stephen Ryan McGuffin –were arrested and charged in the conjunction with the beating of a University of Waterloo student, which left the 19-year old in the hospital with life threatening injuries. After being released from jail the students were suspended from Laurier for a year. In 2005 they were sentenced to two years of house arrest after pleading guilty to the charges.

-Reported Nov. 26, 2003

Just weeks after Melis and McGuffin were charged with assault, all-start football player Derek Medler was charged with forcible confinement and accessory to an attempted murder. This same week he failed a random drug test, testing positive for cocaine use. Medler was suspended for four years by the Canadian Interuniversity Sport and banned indefinitely from campus. After a court appearance Medler faced several other weapon-related charges involving the firearm used to shoot the victim.

-Reported Dec. 10, 2003

7. CAS strike

365 Laurier contract academic staff (CAS) walked off the job on March 19 2008, which resulted in many classes being cancelled for nearly three weeks. A conciliator was not able to help talks between the university and CAS members, as there was strong disagreement on the major issues, which included salary and seniority. Throughout the strike there was a lot of support for part-time professors; a petition was signed by 2750 students, there was a walk-in to university administration offices and several rallies organized by WLUFA were attended by many students; yet the students’ union failed to take a stance on the issue. The semester was extended by two days, but students were not given a refund for missed teaching time.

-Reported March and April 2008

8. Fine arts cut

Laurier announced that they were slowly phasing out the fine arts program, which outraged several students and professors. The courses required to graduate with a degree in fine arts were to be offered until April 2007.

-Reported Oct. 27, 2004

9. Team ‘racist’ at Winter Carnival

During WLUSU’s annual Winter Carnival event, several members of the Loyal Order of Waterbuffaloes were seen around campus in blackface with novelty-sized joints and fried chicken buckets on their head. Though only one formal complaint was lodged to WLUSU president Allan Cayenne national newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, picked up the story.

-Reported Jan. 24, 2007

10. Audit at OneCard office undisclosed

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A lengthy forensic audit that took place at the OneCard office between November 2007 and February 2008, raised much suspicion around the financial activities of the OneCard office, though results from the audit were never released.

Sometime during the time of the audit the manger of the office Nick Tomljenovic was no longer employed by the university, but there was no explanation as to why.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request filed by The Cord in May 2008 for the results of the audit failed due to “employee-related matters.”

-Reported Sept. 1 2008