By Erina Sirrah
Ryerson University’s president Mohamed Lachemi has announced his plan to go down Niagara Falls in a barrel to prove his commitment to the school’s latest expansion.
“I’m ready. Full hearts, large eyes, can’t lose or whatever those sports people say,” Lachemi declared. When The Eye caught up with him at one of his morning prep sessions, he curled himself into a ball on the floor of his office and sat still for 20 minutes, the approximate length of the fall.
“Rocketting down a raging waterfall in a small wooden barrel is going to be a breeze compared to the last year of dealing with [Doug] Ford,” he said. “When I’m in that barrel, I’m only going to be thinking about Ryerson.”
After Ryerson’s application for an innovation hub in Niagara Falls was turned down, the city of Niagara took things into their own hands and re-applied. The application went to the federal government, not the provincial one—but Lachemi said he is not taking any chances.
“Ford is the premier of Ontario and acts like the mayor of Toronto, so who’s to say that this being a federal decision will stop him?”
When asked by The Eye if he was nervous about the dangers of the stunt, Lachemi slowly lifted his head from his practice position and shook his head.
“I don’t know what Ford will cancel next,” he said, citing the cancellation of Ryerson’s Brampton campus, law school’s OSAP funding and other changes to university and student finances. He began sweating nervously the moment the word “cancel” was spoken out loud.
“It was either a barrel or going across the falls on a tightrope,” Lachemi’s trainer, Chris P. Bacon, explained. “We went with the barrel because then no one can see the look of fear on his face.”
Bacon said Lachemi has been planning his daredevil stunt since January. The final stretch of his training will involve working with a psychologist about how to think positively while plummeting down the falls.
The barrel was custom-made and donated by Ryerson faculty and staff, who say they can’t bear to see the government cancel any more of Ryerson’s projects. They commissioned a painting of Ford on the inside, so Lachemi can make eye contact with his enemy and remember his motivation.
When the group presented it to the president at one of his morning practices, he began sniffling and wiping his eyes.
“I hope this gives Lachemi his spunk back,” said one member who wished to stay anonymous, stating concerns Ford might cancel their careers if they’re seen helping the president. “This project has already been rejected once, and between that and Brampton and the law school, he really needs a win.”
Lachemi calmed concerns of being swept away by the Niagara’s current after the jump by stating that, if necessary, a team of other administration members are prepared to swim out to get the barrel once it lands at the bottom of the falls.
Lachemi will take the plunge June 7, the one-year anniversary of Ford’s election. Whether it’s for spite, celebration or another motive for picking that date, the president wouldn’t comment.