Join the Campaign to Save University of Toronto’s Minor in Buddhism, Psychology, and Mental Health

Buddhist author and professor Jeff Wilson is calling to save a major Buddhist Studies program at the University of Toronto.

Rod Meade Sperry
12 January 2024
The University of Toronto Buddhism & Psychology Student Union lotus logo.
The U of T Buddhism & Psychology Student Union logo.

From Jeff Wilson, Buddhist author and Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies at Renison University College, University of Waterloo, comes a call to us all to help save what he calls “one of Canada’s most unique and innovative academic Buddhism programs.” He writes:

Founded in 2007 at the University of Toronto’s New College, the Minor in Buddhism, Psychology, and Mental Health (BPMH) has been an astounding success. A key part of that success is the positive experiences reported by BPMH students who credit the Minor with significantly supporting their mental health, improving their university experience, expanding their understandings of Asian cultures, and even changing their lives.

But, as Wilson explains, the administration made a surprise announcement in November that enrollment in the program would be suspended. “Large numbers of students rallied to the support of the program,” he writes, “creating a petition with over 1500 signatures, holding a peaceful sit-in, and spreading the word about the impending closure. Nevertheless, the deans have so far refused to meet with the faculty over the suspension of the program.”

“It’s hard to overstate the powerful effect that BPMH program has on our students. Students gravitate to our courses because a trauma-aware and healing-centered approach to teaching and building community stands at the heart of rigorous academic study,” BPMH Director Frances Garrett tells Lion’s Roar.

“We believe that this program is special in higher education, and our overflowing courses and enthusiastic student voices make it clear that students agree. It’s a program that needs support now, as the administration proposes to cut it,” says Garrett.

Those who wish to see the program make a comeback are urged to sign and share the petition and to send letters of support to Program Director Frances Garrett ([email protected]), as well as to write New College Principal Dickson Eyoh ([email protected]), New College Vice Principal Alexandra Guerson De Oliveira ([email protected]) and/or Vice-Dean of Undergraduate Programs Randy Boyagoda (r[email protected]). 

You may also wish to follow this blog, created by students to follow the situation as it unfolds:

Rod Meade Sperry. Photo by Megumi Yoshida, 2024

Rod Meade Sperry

Rod Meade Sperry is the editor of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Guide (published by Lion’s Roar), and the book A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his partner and their tiny pup, Sid.