On Friday, Nov 24, BPMH students were invited to meet for one hour with Vice-deans Bill Ju, Penelope Lockwood, and NC Principal Dickson Eyoh. Today they sent a letter to the administration summarizing the meeting, which you can read here.) This meeting was called on short notice, only three days in advance. No online option was given to students who could not attend in person, so student groups PATH and BPSU took the initiative to create a Zoom invitation. 20 students were in attendance, with about 10 more attending online. A representative from the University of Toronto Faculty Association and a reporter from The Varsity were also present.
Vice-Dean Lockwood began with a brief description of the proposal to terminate the BPMH program, and about the suspension of new enrollments into the program.
Next, many students spoke – all with emotion and passion – about the impact of a potential program closure, about the suddenness of the news, and about how chaotic and stressful this month has been. They also spoke to the academic rigor of the program, as well as how their lives have been impacted personally, in terms of improving their mental health and teaching them how to take care of themselves. They had a lot of questions, but there wasn’t enough time to adequately address any of them. These are some of the key questions students asked:
- What is the academic rationale for the suggested program closure, especially since there is so much known value to the program?
- Why won’t the university hire a full-time faculty or draw on expertise already among full-time faculty in other departments, when this is so often how new programs become more sustainable?
- Why has there not been more information given to students during this process?
- Precisely why is enrollment now suspended?
- How will the university ensure students can finish their requirements if the program closes in 2025, as we have been told by Principal Eyoh?
When students asked for a proper consultation, Vice-Dean Lockwood promised that there would be a series of student consultation meetings next semester. A meeting in January with students was guaranteed, although there has yet to be a date set.
At the end of the meeting, given this promise of consultation, students asked that the consideration of this program closure NOT take place in the January Faculty of Arts & Science Curriculum Committee meeting, but that this be postponed to the March meeting at the earliest. (All program changes, including closures, must go through a governance process, one key component of which is a discussion and vote at a Faculty of Arts & Science Curriculum Committee meeting. These meetings take place several times a year.) On Friday, a vote was taken, and students present at the meeting – both in person and online – voted unanimously that the FAS Curriculum Committee should not consider the program closure until March at the earliest so there will be time for at least some consultation. Vice-Dean Lockwood said she would discuss this with her colleagues.
Over the last ten days, BPMH Program Director (on leave in 2023-24) Frances Garrett tells us that she has sent a number of emails to the Dean’s office about this situation, and in the last week, she has forwarded the Dean’s office more than twenty letters of support sent from U of T and international faculty, staff, librarians and community members. She has gotten no response from the Deans to those emails or letters, and there still has been no faculty consultation on the program closure proposal.
Yesterday, November 27, Professor Garrett and several students attended the New College Academic Affairs meeting. BPMH was the first agenda item for this meeting. Several students spoke about the impact this situation has had on them.
Principal Eyoh also made a statement at this meeting, in which it seems clear that the administration may now be shifting its earlier claim that the program will be closed in 2025. Yesterday Eyoh said that “the dean is considering the recommendation” that the program be closed but that “this is the consultation phase.” He noted that “suspension of enrollment and program closure are entirely different processes” administratively, with suspension of enrollment not necessarily leading to program closure. He said that on Friday, Nov 24, “students requested another [consultation] meeting in January, and this was accepted” by the Deans. He also acknowledged students’ request that the FAS Curriculum Committee not consider program closure until its March meeting at the earliest, but said that “this issue will be discussed in the Dean’s office.” His position now is that “it’s misleading to say that this was done without consultation” (although he announced the program’s closure in 2025 at a November 15 meeting of the New College Council, prior to any form of consultation on this proposal to close the program). We recognize that the shifting messages coming from Principal Eyoh and other administrators is only worsening student distress.
Principal Eyoh explained this morning that when (or if?) the proposal does reach the FAS Curriculum Committee, they may “accept, reject or ask for a report” on the matter. The next step would be for the proposal to go to the Faculty Council, which also may accept, reject, or ask for a report. He explained that students may ask to attend Faculty Council should the issue reach that point. After going through Faculty Council, the proposal would go to the Provost’s office, which also may “request students to weigh in,” he explained.
Importantly, to reiterate, Principal Eyoh said yesterday (contrary to what he said last week) that there is NOT yet a recommendation from the Dean to shut down the program. Yesterday he said that the administration is now in the stage of consultation with students and faculty.
The message at yesterday’s Academic Affairs meeting suggests that student voices and student action may already be shifting the needle on this proposal. We encourage everyone to continue to make their position known and help us protect our program.