Appointment of Professor Randy Boyagoda as Provostial Advisor on Civil Discourse (PDAD&C #23)

From: Trevor Young, Vice-President and Provost
Date: January 16, 2024
Re: Appointment of Professor Randy Boyagoda as Provostial Advisor on Civil Discourse (PDAD&C #23)

Over the past months, attention has been keenly focused on how various parts of society – including universities – are addressing rhetoric and behaviour pertaining to the current conflict in the Middle East. At last month’s meeting of the Governing Council, President Gertler addressed the challenge of civil discourse among those with radically differing viewpoints:

Disagreements on our campuses can and will be heated. But they cannot be allowed to descend into hateful, demeaning, or harassing behaviour. Our university must demonstrate to the world how civil, informed debate about difficult issues can be conducted.

To guide the University in answering President Gertler’s call, I have appointed Professor Randy Boyagoda as Provostial Advisor on Civil Discourse for an 18-month term, effective January 1, 2024. During this time, Professor Boyagoda will establish a working group that will lead community consultations and develop a plan for tri-campus events, resources, and other initiatives for students and faculty that develop and sustain sensibilities and capacities for productive civil discourse. Over the coming months, the U of T community can expect a call for nominations to the working group, tri-campus consultations and town halls, and the development of ways and means to foster civil discourse literacy and practice on our campuses.

Professor Boyagoda is well-suited to the task at hand. Having served as Principal and Vice-President of St. Michael’s College, and as Acting Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life, as well as currently serving as Vice-Dean, Undergraduate at the Faculty of Arts & Science, he has university experience that encompasses a range of perspectives, including his ongoing undergraduate and graduate teaching in English. He is also an accomplished writer; in addition to his novels, he regularly contributes essays and opinions to a variety of publications in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. He has also served as President of PEN Canada, the national chapter of the international organization that celebrates literature, defends freedom of expression, and aids writers in peril.

I am certain that Professor Boyagoda’s combination of skills and knowledge will serve the University well in this important role. I am grateful to him for his willingness to serve as the Provostial Advisor on Civil Discourse.