We now interrupt your normally scheduled programming with this breaking news: shit is going down.
A good man got fired for no good reason. And the people who made the decision are silent. I will not be silent. This is wrong! It is the wrong decision made in the wrong way for the wrong reasons.
On Friday, one of our Deans had emailed and asked me to attend a meeting on Monday as the student government president. I would not have been able to guess the reason in a million years. Something was off with the Dean when I saw him. Something was off with the people who slowly filled the conference room. No one knew why the meeting had been called and that made everyone nervous.
The Dean sat solemnly at the head of the table. He began to tell a story of a time when his family, of Indian descent, were attacked by skinheads. Even as his father lay in a pool of his own blood, he begged his sons not to hurt their attackers. The Dean spoke of scapegoating, prejudice, and discrimination, but also of peace and love. Then he announced that he had been dismissed from his post as our Dean without explanation. He wiped his eyes, talked about the good work he’s done since coming here and the inexplicability of this decision. Then he left the room. For two hours, confused and compassionate people sat in that conference room and tried to make sense of this decision. For two hours we failed. All that we could determine is what is to be done now. We are doing it.
There are problems at University of the West. I knew it when I arrived. That’s okay. Everywhere has problems. They are opportunities for growth, change, and learning to happen.
But here there is also silence and an unwillingness to work for sollutions with the very people affected most by those problems. I have seen it happen many times and been told of many more times by people who’ve been here longer than I. Now it has come to this.
I will not fill this space with angry rhetoric and fingers pointing blame, but I will not be silent either. Ghandi told us the opposite of good is not evil but indifference. I will not be indifferent, or apathetic, or scared into silence because those who made this decision have more power than I. The inscription above the main entrance door to the Nebraska State Capitol reads “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen.” I have been raised to understand it is not only my right but my duty to talk back to power. To stand up and say “This is wrong!” To shout it if I have to. I am saying that now. I will not meet silence with silence.
University of the West has such great potential. What we ask for – communication, transparency, dialogue, understanding, concern – these things are not too much. These things are, in fact, a basic minimum that faculty, staff, and students have come to expect at any university in this country. Why can we not find them here? It saddens me all the more to see that potential wasted on petty power squables and damaged again and again by the failure of leadership to lead. There are so many brilliant people working so hard to make this university successful only to be undermired by hidden agendas and failures to communicate.
This must change! For the continued survival of University of the West, a place I dearly love, this culture of silence, secrecy, and distrust must change. The University cannot carry out its mission, is not carrying out this mission, when things like this can happen, do happen, have happened.
In the days and weeks to come, the University of the West Student Association, of which I am the duly elected President, will present a letter to the President and Board of Trustees of University of the West. We will circulate a petition to the student body. We will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure our voices are heard. You may find continual updates at the UWSA website: www.uwsa.net.
As a Buddhist, I will attempt to do this mindfully, with compassion and an open heart and mind. I will attempt to cultivate bodhicitta and loving-kindness for everyone with whom I come into contact and especially those with whom I disagree. Those who oppose us, who do us wrong, are our greatest teachers. May the buddhas and bodhisattvas be my guide.