SMCSU Open Letter to Dean Woodin

SMCSU Open Letter to Dean Woodin

Expressing SMCSU’s stance against the proposed closure of the BPMH (Buddhism, Psychology, and Mental Health) program at UofT

Dear Dean Melanie Woodin,

On behalf of the St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU) at the University of Toronto, we write with urgency to address the proposed closure of the BPMH (Buddhism, Psychology, and Mental Health) program. The decision to cancel this program represents a significant deviation from the University’s core commitments to academic excellence and its dedication to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

The BPMH program stands as a unique and vital part of the University’s academic framework, melding psychological insights with Buddhist philosophy. This interdisciplinary approach not only enriches the academic landscape but also positions the University of Toronto at the forefront of diverse and inclusive intellectual exploration. The discontinuation of this program would mark a considerable loss, eroding the rich tapestry of intellectual diversity that our institution is known for.

Moreover, the proposed closure markedly undermines our commitment to incorporating diverse, non-colonial perspectives into the curriculum. At a time when the academic community is increasingly recognizing the value of varied cultural and philosophical viewpoints, the BPMH program serves as an essential bridge, providing deep insights into mental health through the prism of Buddhist philosophy. Its removal from our curriculum would represent a step back from our collective goal of fostering an inclusive and comprehensive educational environment.

This recommendation also contradicts the University’s mission of nurturing a thriving academic
community where a diverse range of scholarship is not just present, but actively celebrated. The BPMH program is a testament to this mission, offering transformative educational experiences that resonate with our diverse, global society.

At St. Michael’s College, we deeply appreciate and understand the importance of programs like BPMH. They do more than just add to our course offerings; they are pivotal in enriching our intellectual environment and embody the spirit of inclusivity and diversity that the University of Toronto champions. The program’s emphasis on Buddhist spirituality is critical, providing a well-rounded perspective on mental health and challenging our students to engage with ideas that extend beyond the traditional Western narrative.

The robust opposition from the student body, illustrated by the PATH sit-in protest and the substantial support for the petition against the program’s closure, clearly signifies the program’s value and impact. This collective stance from the students is a clear call for the preservation of the educational values and opportunities that the University of Toronto is esteemed for. Overlooking this would not only diminish the value of student input but also raise serious questions about the University’s responsiveness to its core stakeholders – the student body.

In light of these considerations and against the backdrop of a global mental health crisis, we strongly urge a reconsideration of the decision to close the BPMH program. Maintaining this program is crucial for upholding the diverse and inclusive academic environment that is a hallmark of the University of Toronto. Its closure would not only be a disservice to our students but also a contradiction to the University’s commitment to holistic and inclusive education.

We respectfully await a decision that reflects the University’s high standards of academic excellence and inclusivity. We remain ready to engage in further dialogue and collaborative efforts to ensure the continuity and success of the BPMH program.

St. Michael’s College Student Union (undersigned by President, VP, VP Academic Affairs and VP Mental Health)

Hedieh Hashemi Yusuf Durmus Arib Hassam Vaishu Koduri

President Vice-President Vice-President Vice-President

of Mental Health of Academic Affairs

On behalf of the St. Michael’s College Student Union Council