A meeting was called by The Office of the Principal, New College, inviting BPMH students to discuss the BPMH program

In attendance:

Randy Boyagoda (FAS Vice-Dean), Dickson Eyoh (New College Interim Principal), and around 12 students, on Zoom


We prepare these minutes for the record, and to share widely with students, faculty, and community members interested in the BPMH program.


On March 19, 2024 an email from The Office of the Principal was sent to the President and VP of BPSU offering two options for a meeting with BPMH students on the program closure recommendation: March 25 and 27. The email was mailed to only two students, who were told that if they didn’t respond within 48 hours, the meetings would be canceled. Given the busy time of semester, the BPSU President and VP were unable to respond quickly, and The Office of the Principal wrote 48 hours later that “this meeting will be cancelled, and no future meeting is planned or promised at this time.”

The BPSU President responded as soon as she was able, on March 21, to accept a meeting on March 27 for students. She made the following requests, writing that “I would also like to point out that it is also very stressful and unfair to put the entire burden of student body consultation on the shoulders of two students.” Her email requested:

  1. We ask that the meeting be virtual and recorded, with the Zoom meeting hosted by us, so as many students as possible can participate, given the time of the semester and short notice.
  2. We ask that you send us your questions for consultation in advance, by Sunday at latest, so we can be prepared.
  3. We ask that you come prepared with a fulsome consultation plan beyond this session (ie. with dates and an articulated consultation strategy), so we can prepare students unable to attend this hastily organized first session.
  4. In our meeting minutes from the February 12, 2024 meeting, we asked that you meet with faculty before further student meetings, but we understand that this has still not happened. In lieu of that, we ask at least that you review available documents on the program before meeting with us (you can find documents on the PATH blog

On March 21, The Office of the Principal replied that “the terms of the meeting, for consultation, were made clear in the original invitation and remains as such. Your additional requests are denied as they do not conform to normal practices in consultations associated with the Faculty’s academic programs.”

On March 22, BPSU replied again:

“We asked that you provide us some information about your consultation such as questions or topics, and you have denied this request. You state that there are “normal practices in consultations associated with the Faculty’s academic programs” – would you please point us to the policies or guidelines that describe these practices? It is reasonable for us to request a chance to prepare for this important meeting. We also asked that you review recent program documents, and you denied that request as well. We are concerned about the possible spread of misinformation, and once again invite you to read the documents we have created at”

Students received no response to or acknowledgement of this email.

March 27, 2024 Meeting Minutes:

We note that only an hour was scheduled for this meeting, and Professors Boyagoda and Eyoh spoke for over 40% of the time. At the beginning of the meeting, students asked for recording so other students could participate, but again this was denied. They have therefore prepared these minutes with as much detail as possible.

Professor Boyagoda began by repeating the claim that Religion and Psychology are the only cognate disciplines for the BPMH program, and that both units expressed disinterest in supporting the program. “It does not look like we’ve been able to find a new sponsor for the program,” he said, repeating that the basic problem is that “we haven’t found an academic unit willing to sponsor the program.”

A student asked, “How has it been determined there are that there are no other cognate units?” Professor Boyagoda offered the (absurd) response that “it wouldn’t make sense, for instance, to go to the English department or the Economics department to find sponsors for a program like this.”

Again, another student repeated this question in the chat: “I was wondering whether units other than Psychology or Religion have been consulted as possible sponsors for the program?” Students called again for the administration to consult with program faculty on this issue. One student said, “if more faculty were consulted…there may be kind of a way of finding support for this.” Someone suggested, “I do wonder if perhaps faculty could be consulted on whether there are other cognate units or colleges that could step in? As students won’t feel comfortable or as informed to speak on this.” Another person said, “it does not feel proper that we are being consulted after it has already been decided that there are no cognate units … shouldn’t this be discussed with higher ups and faculty?”

No response was given to these repeated questions about consultation of the program’s cognate units.

(Students have shared information about the cognate units that make most sense to the program’s discipline several times in the past, and they understand that faculty have also shared this information many times. They don’t understand why Professors Boyagoda and Eyoh continue to repeat the story that Psychology and Religion are the only cognate units, and why they are unable/unwilling to respond to questions about this.)

Professor Boyagoda continued to display a misunderstanding of the program’s relationship to Religion, suggesting that the BPMH program’s offerings could be satisfied by courses in Religion. He also expressed confusion about why the program couldn’t be offered as an extra-curricular “wellness” program. In the limited time provided, students tried again to explain the program to Professor Boyagoda; some of their explanations are below.

One student, who is enrolled in Psychology, Buddhist Studies, and BPMH programs, explained that she therefore has “a good view what each of them are.” She discussed in some detail the “rigorous process and understanding” produced uniquely in the BPMH program. Another student explained the importance of “how multidisciplinary the program is”, calling it “a beacon of hope that there can be this way of collaborating across disciplines,” and referring to “the way that psychologists are put in dialogue with religion are put in dialogue with actual, you know, mental health care and practice.” A Psychology student explained that “BPMH has allowed space for embodied and integrative learning in ways that psychology has not done. In doing so, my learning has been deepened in unimaginable ways.”

Several students emphasized how much they’ve learned about learn about research techniques and “non-colonial ways of knowing and being.” Comments addressed how the program helps them “look at the science of healing, the science of wellness” together with phenomenology, consciousness, and neuroscience, “bringing all these things together in a way that is not present in any of the Human Biology courses.” A student noted that “these kinds of courses really elevated my ability to write and my ability to think critically about different subjects and kinds of research.” Someone noted, “With the amount of research that’s exploding in mindfulness and meditation, I just think there’s so much potential for this program. I feel like this is the time where it should be growing, not shrinking.”

Another student explained that “people that want to go into medicine, therapy, whatever, you need to have both… this understanding of science, but also an understanding of people, and understand, how to how to connect with people. And I think that for me, that’s been kind of the biggest takeaway from this program.” Someone said that “the program has helped me to work on being a better person,” explaining that “it’s not just about learning new facts or learning new skills about a specific career, but it’s like okay, how can you improve yourself to work in any situation that you find yourself in.”

Expressing frustration at Professor Boyagoda’s suggestion that program offerings could be met in “wellness” workshops, a student said, “I have participated in a number of out-of-classroom mindfulness and wellness programs. Only half of what we learn in class is present there.” Another person wrote in the chat, “What does academic mean? If a course teaches me to be a better human, is it not academic? How much more academic can you get? What can possibly be more important?”

One student explained, “I learned a lot from computer science. But one thing that computer science doesn’t teach you is how to be a better human. And I feel like if I had to summarize what BPM has taught me it is to be a better human. And I think that’s something that’s really important that the universities should support.” Someone else said, “it’s not even about what we’re learning, but it’s about the kind of people that it’s shaping us to be. And I think U of T should take pride in that and that it’s important about as a university, you’re not only teaching us but you’re also making us into good people and you’re setting us up with these important skills.”

A student explained to Professor Boyagoda that, “We are supposed to come up with a goal, an idea of what is good and what is right and what is helpful. And then we work toward that goal, no matter what administrative bureaucratic things are standing in a way… So I hear all of the comments coming back to the students about the difficulties… with hiring and not having enough faculty, but I keep coming back to, what’s the goal here. And if the goal isn’t to increase learning and to change lives, like mine, to set me on a new career path, if that’s not the goal, then I think that the goal is something that the goal shouldn’t be.”

Students have repeatedly asked the administration to invest in the program (and they are aware that the UTQAP external reviewers in 2021 also asked for this). One said, “I imagine part of investing in a program that seems to have a lot of support behind it on the students’ end is maybe funding faculty.” Someone wrote in the chat: “if the CS department did not have enough faculty, what would happen? Would the CS department shut down? Definitely not. Why is the BPM program being treated differently when we are hearing so many powerful student testimonies? I understand that there are many logistical issues with this, but at the end of the day when there is enough demand for a program, the university will reorient themselves to meet the need for that demand.”

Professor Boyagoda said that this cannot be done because he thinks that New College’s academic planning did not include supporting the BPMH program. He said, “I can’t speak to the academic planning, what we call complement planning, associated with New College that led to the to the outcome where there’s no interest in pursuing permanent faculty associated with this problem.”

(But students have heard strong and consistent support from New College for our program, which has been running for 17 years at the College. They have never heard anyone at New College or BPMH suggest that the College has excluded the program from its academic planning (aside from Interim Director Eyoh in the last five months). To the contrary, as one student pointed out, several years ago NC had talked about expanding into a major. And, in a meeting between student representatives, Eyoh and Boyagoda on February 12, 2024, Eyoh stated that “New College has been funding the bulk of the program, and New College will continue funding the program, if it exists, if the decision by the Dean is okay… That’s not what’s at issue here.”)

Professor Boyagoda said that “Once academics come forward and say, we want to do this, because we’ve seen something in the field, we’ve responded to students… then the administrators say, Okay, we’ll figure out how to do it, then that’s our jobs.” He suggested that this “just didn’t happen, from what I understand.”  

(This makes no sense. Students have read the Program Support Dossier and spoken to program faculty. They have read letters from tenured faculty around the university who are eager to talk to the administration about protecting and expanding this program. They don’t understand why Professor Boyagoda is unwilling to acknowledge or act on these offers of support, if he says that this is his job.)

Professor Boyagoda said that he “looked into programs of study associated with the BPMH program,” and found that “the overwhelming majority are psychology, first, a variety of psychology programs, and then the DSR. And then after that, it was kind of one in two students in environmental science, one or two students here in there. But the majority of students clearly see as did the external assessors overlap between the BPMH, DSR, and Psychology.”

However, students know this to be inaccurate. As one person posted in the chat, “According to OFR data retrieved in March 2024, the units with whom BPMH shares the most program-enrolled students are Psychology, Philosophy, Environment, Human Biology, Cog Sci, Equity & Solidarity, Sociology, and Mathematics, with other units showing insignificant numbers. Only 4% of BPMH minors are also enrolled in Religion programs.”

Students don’t know what Boyagoda could mean by saying that “the majority of students” think that Religion is a significant cognate unit, since data from the registrar’s office does not support this position, nor do the robustly documented experiences of students and faculty.[1] Lots of data is available on this issue. How much data do students need to produce to help Professor Boyagoda understand our program?


After Professors Boyagoda and Eyoh left the meeting, students stayed in the Zoom room to debrief about the meeting. They shared experiences of how speaking with Boyagoda and Eyoh felt very patronizing, how their tones were “harsh” and “condescending,” how their approach to the meeting was “calculating,” and how “cold” they were when hearing students express how life-changing the BPMH program had been for them. “I feel small,” said one student afterwards. Students did not feel that they had been properly consulted.

Students are frustrated that Professor Boyagoda hasn’t read the many documents they’ve sent that explain the program. They feel like he is wasting their time, and they feel insulted, demoralized, and discouraged. One student said, “by the sounds of it, there’s nothing we can do. Like, there’s no difference we can make to save the program.” They wonder what the point of consulting students is, if Professor Boyagoda has already concluded his work on the program and is unable to learn about it, despite many efforts on the part of students and faculty around campus.

Students are frustrated that Boyagoda and Eyoh continue to spread misinformation about the program. It has been almost five months since Eyoh announced the recommendation to close the program. Still, these two administrators continue to demonstrate their ignorance. Students are concerned about how widely they are spreading this misinformation, and what consequences this will have for students and the university.

[1] OFR data on students enrolled in BPMH courses this year, for example, show that BPMH courses overall (over 1,100 students in all) include 254 students from Human Biology, 220 from Psychology, 142 from Immunology, 128 from Physiology, etc., but only 16 from Religion (which is less than 2%). Data also show that out of the 603 students enrolled in DSR courses on Buddhism this year, only 34 are BPMH minors. The Program Support Dossier includes additional discussions about this precise issue. As just one of many examples, Dr Tony Scott, Arts & Science Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science and BPMH Instructor, wrote, “The BPMH Program pursues the study of Buddhism in conversation with psychology, social work, neuroscience, and other disciplines in the university that are not taken up by the Department for the Study of Religion (DSR). Rolling the classes of the BPMH Program into the DSR would not increase enrollment in the DSR but reduce overall student engagement with Buddhism on campus… Many students take up the BPMH Major precisely because it is not in the DSR.” – (BPMH-PSD, pg. 108)