Just a quick follow up on my recent post regarding the closing of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto. Below is a letter from Meric Gertler, the dean of the university’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences, which was sent to Igor Shoikhedbrod, who served as the executive director of BID, the student organization that I helped run and mentioned extensively in that recent post. The letter is posted in the comments section of my piece, but I thought I would also display it here for easier access.
Many thanks for your taking the time to write. I fully understand your concern regarding this decision. The Faculty’s Strategic Planning Committee recognizes the many important achievements of the Centre since it was established five years ago. But circumstances have changed since the Centre was first set up. We have recently adopted new degree objectives for Arts & Science undergraduate programs, and these enshrine the goal that our students develop competence in understanding principles of social and ethical responsibility. At the same time, our financial circumstances have worsened dramatically, to the point where our annual expenditures exceed our annual revenues by $22M, and our accumulated debt exceeds $55M.
Given this, the SPC made a tough decision to propose the closure of the Centre – not because it was not undertaking very worthy activities, but because the resources devoted to it are required to meet a more pressing and immediate need in the classroom (the mounting of new courses in social and ethical responsibility). Although students such as you were able to benefit from the activities taking place at the Centre, we are now looking for ways to create benefits for a wider group of undergraduates across the Faculty.
The full costs associated with the Centre exceed $360K annually, the approximate equivalent of three entry-level academic positions. Given how tight our finances are these days, and given our very pressing needs across the Faculty, the SPC worked overtime to identify every possible way to enhance our teaching capacity. In light of these considerations, it was not possible for the SPC to justify continued funding for the Centre.
We realize that the closing of the Centre will be a loss to the Faculty. At the same time, we are heartened by the knowledge that the same brilliant faculty and students will continue to find ways to engage in academic research, debate and deliberation around the many important political, social and moral issues of our time.
Meric S. Gertler
Faculty of Arts & Science