Dear Principal Eyoh,
We are writing to follow up with you regarding the meeting we had on November 16th, where you shared the news that a recommendation has been made to close the Buddhism, Psychology & Mental Health (BPMH) program.
We have been deeply shocked and concerned by this news, particularly since no consultation with any current program faculty, instructors, or students has taken place to date about this issue.
At the November 14th New College Council meeting, which some of us attended, you mentioned that there would be “town halls” and other opportunities for student voices to be heard. You also stated that enrollment in the minor was already scheduled to be closed this year.
As we expressed on November 14th, however, it is a contradiction to say that our voices will be heard while simultaneously informing us that a decision has already been made to close enrollment this year and close the program by 2025. This tells us that, in fact, our voices do not matter. At our meeting on November 16th, we repeatedly asked for written documentation of this process demonstrating that it followed the governing protocol to close a program. But we were met with laughter and asked to “take your word for it.” In response to our questions, you told us that the process was “complicated,” implying that we would not be able to follow; this made us feel dismissed and belittled, reinforcing the apparent lack of transparency in this process. Lastly, when prompted several times, you would not confirm whether you had been authorized to make this announcement.
We are saddened and disappointed with the lack of transparency and consultation during this process. The way you have announced the program’s closure, and by extension how you have treated us, lacks acknowledgement or understanding that for us, the University of Toronto is not just a business—it is our home and our community.
We have been told that UofT cares about our mental health. However, announcing the closure of one of the only academic programs focused specifically on teaching and researching mental health without consultation of the BPMH faculty or students or a transparent process is disrespectful to us and our program. Additionally, this proposal for closure directly conflicts with the Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health. The Administrative Response to the Task Force’s final report stated that the University will “do everything we can to help our students feel a sense of community, which is a critical component of mental wellness.” We are already exhausted, trying to understand how this could be happening to our community and how our voices can be heard. The timing of the announcement to cancel the program, at the end of the semester leading into the exam period, is causing us further stress. Furthermore, a student meeting for November 24th was announced on Tuesday, November 21st—with only three days’ notice—which is inconsiderate to students’ time and mental health, especially in this busy period of the academic year.
This entire process has lacked transparency and inclusion. The meeting invitation was sent via the NC program listserv, for which students must be registered. Subsequently, the invitation to the meeting for BPMH students was not sent to every student currently enrolled in the BPMH program. Given this lack of inclusion, the room’s limited capacity of 93 when there are 343 students in the program, and the disregard for students’ time, we do not consider this meeting a sincere consultation. The UTQAP report was brought up in the November 16th meeting, and we struggle to comprehend how the working group recommendation to close the program aligns with the recommendations in UTQAP’s report. In fact, the UTQAP report states that the BPMH program is “a genuinely enriching undergraduate program that merits growing support from the University.”
The University of Toronto claims that “we are stronger together.” However, your actions thus far, particularly your claim that the closure of this program is a foregone conclusion, feel divisive.
We ask that you do not treat us, or this program, as “a set of numbers” that are inconvenient or do not matter. We are people. We are your students. This program is our community.
In sending this email, we hope you will better understand the negative impacts of your and the administration’s actions on both our education and mental health. In the BPMH program, we have learned the value of speaking and acting compassionately and inclusively. We do not find this to be the university’s orientation. Still, we ask that you and the administration partner to move forward with us in this spirit. We ask for an open and transparent dialogue to explore ways to support and understand one another.
As the Principal of New College, we expect you to advocate for the protection of your students and your program. We invite you to support and partner with us right away:
- Join nearly 1000 program supporters and sign our petition at https://www.change.org/p/protect-the-bpmh-program
- Let us know specifically how else we can join forces to advocate for our program.
- We understand a meeting has been called for November 24th; we invite you to hold space and time for student statements and questions.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We await your response, and we will see you at the meeting on Friday.
PATH & BPSU