DCF Response to UCI’s rejection of its Gifts

The UCI School of Humanities’ Ad hoc Committee (Download report) and the Humanities Executive Committee (Download Statement) have acted hastily to reject the gifts from Dharma Civilization Foundation, without any consultation with the donors. In part they have cited procedural issues; In part they have openly questioned the legitimacy of the Foundation. Whatever be their intentions, they have not advanced the cause of civil discourse.

On behalf of the many hundreds of donors from the Hindu Community who contributed and participated in the opportunity to endow these Chairs at the University of California’s school of humanities, the Board of Trustees of Dharma Civilization Foundation, wish to express their anguish and deep disappointment both at the unilateral decision to reject these chairs, and the manner in which this decision was wrought. DCF is deeply disappointed by the fact that a university which claims to respect diversity, academic freedom and enjoys the goodwill of a substantial number of Indian and Indian American students and alums would buckle so easily under the pressure of an orchestrated, highly politicized campaign and treat a major gift initiative from the community with such discourtesy and disdain.

Dharma Civilization Foundation cannot be faulted for the Ad hoc Committee’s belated discovery of supposed flaws in its internal gift-acceptance mechanisms and its consequent rejection of a gift agreement signed into effect by the President of UCI, well over 6 months ago. DCF has been very civil in trusting the UCI Administration to guide the Foundation in following whatever protocols were necessary in securing consensus for these gifts, among the various stakeholders within UCI. It is one thing to say that the intentions of the Dharma Civilization Foundation are incompatible with the academic objectives of the UCI School of Humanities. DCF would have been happy to walk away from UCI, and look elsewhere for an institution that would be better aligned with DCF’s objective of expanding and supporting under-represented areas of teaching and research on Hindu Studies and Dharma Studies. It is however entirely another to engage in an orchestrated campaign of slander and libel designed to delegitimize the Foundation, and ensure that the efforts of gift giving by the Hindu Community to the UCI are shut down without even a semblance of constructive dialog and engagement.

The overwhelming message that the Faculty members behind the public petitions, and highly prejudicial open letter, have delivered is that the Hindus are not welcome to participate at the academic table. We have to wonder, what indeed is the academic freedom that these Faculty members are defending? Is it the freedom to accuse, abuse and slander freely and without any check? Why single out the Hindu American community when Religious Studies Chairs and Centers are currently funded, as a norm, by various religious communities with diverse viewpoints? Why so much irrational hostility towards the Hindu community? The many hundreds of American donors of Indian origin who came forward with contributions to make these chairs possible, did not deserve to be smeared and disenfranchised in this way.

We wish to reassure the community of volunteers and donors that DCF will continue its fight for the rights of the Hindu and Dharma communities to support, without fear of prejudice or slander, the respectful study of their own cultures and philosophies in the American higher education system as has been the case with every other major religious and racial minority group in America.

About the author

Kalyan Viswanathan is the Executive Vice President of Dharma Civilization Foundation. He holds a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Ohio State University and a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS, Pilani). He is a student of Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, with whom he underwent extensive study of Advaita Vedanta in the tradition of Adi Shankara. He is also the President of Sanatana Dharma Foundation, Dallas, Texas