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Happiness Event at U of T draws criticism over organizers lack of credentials

Last Updated Oct 14, 2017 at 12:21 pm EDT

A man teaching an upcoming class at the University of Toronto is raising some eyebrows. Mark Devon is behind ‘The Happiness Class”, an event taking place at the Hart House Circle on Oct. 22nd but isn’t affiliated with the U of T.

It’s a class described to be about emotions, behaviours and relationships, something that’s usually taught  by someone with training or education background in psychology.

Devon admits he doesn’t have those credentials, and instead calls himself “an outsider to psychology”.

“The point of this class is to bring psychology into the 21ast century, by teaching people what emotions are based on each emotions individual biological purpose,” he said. “When you do that, many insights come out.”

The Toronto man says he has received emails from those interested in attending the event, but also criticism from professionals who say his classes are misleading.

“I do support where I can, my assertion with facts,” Devon said. “I don’t ask them to rely on any data or scientific research taking place in a lab where they need to trust me.”

He’s charging people $10 to get into his classes and telling them they shouldn’t waste their time with PSY 100 courses, psychologists or therapists. His posters have been spotted on subways in Toronto, and they seem to be marketed towards women. Amongst the claims he makes, include that women only fall in love with men of equal or higher rank and that men fall out of love after four years. The ad also uses the same signature navy blue and white colours used by the University of Toronto.

In a statement to the University of Toronto, a spokesperson says school is in no way affiliated with the workshops however there are concerns over the use of the colours.

We are concerned whenever external organizers renting our spaces gives the impression that an event is being presented or endorsed by the University itself,” Althea Blackburn Evans said in an email. “We have already expressed our concerns to the organizer of the event in question.”

Though on his website Devon does say he doesn’t have a background or training in psychology or related fields, the posters don’t include that same information.

“The audience assumes that the person giving the workshop is informed, experienced and trained to be presenting the information they’re presenting,” said Deborah Mecklinger, a Therapist and Certified Coach. “The dangers of attending a class and taking information as gospel, can steer people in the wrong direction.”

Mecklinger, who is also a lawyer and has a Masters in Social Work, says there currently is no way to regulate these classes, so it’s up to attendees to do that for themselves.

“It’s incumbent upon the attendee to do their homework,” she said.

Devon says he has an MBA from Harvard and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Toronto.