UCI expresses continued interest

After sustained engagement with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (OEOD), the University of California has issued a letter to Dharma Civilization Foundation, expressing both regret for ‘any misunderstanding’ as well as ‘continued interest’ in working with the Hindu community to establish Chairs at UCI. The full text of the letter can be seen below.

At the current moment, the process initiated by DCF with UCI, from 2012 onwards has successfully resulted in the creation of the Jain and Sikh Chairs at UCI, whereas the Hindu Chairs stand rejected, even today. In December 2015, certain UCI Faculty from the School of Humanities initiated a petition, calling into question the Hindu communities’ motives, and engaged in an orchestrated campaign of slander designed to delegitimize both Dharma Civilization Foundation, and Dean Georges Van Dan Abbeele, and in the process, ensured that the efforts of gift giving by the Hindu Community to the UCI were shut down without any semblance of constructive dialog or engagement. The overwhelming message that the Faculty members behind the public petitions, and highly prejudicial open letter delivered is that the Hindus alone are not welcome to participate at the academic table. Ironically, they did so, in the name of academic freedom, while not advancing the cause of civil discourse. DCF welcomes the letter from UCI, and the opportunity for constructive, professional and meaningful engagement with UCI Administration, Faculty and Students that it seems to invite.

Dharma Civilization Foundation’s objective is to find open and safe academic environments for the accurate and respectful study of the Dharma Traditions of India including Hinduism in universities across the United States. With the coming of age of the Indian community in the United States of America, it has matured to second and third generations of successful professionals excelling in their fields of technology, medicine, entrepreneurship, law, and finance etc. The Indian Community in North America is now part of the fabric of American society; they are neighbors, friends, colleagues and fellow-citizens of everyday Americans. These Religious traditions of Indian origin are now American too, and not obsolete foreign exotica. DCF represents the Indian heritage community’s commitment to educate their young adults in their culture and traditions of origin, in the schools and universities of America just as all the other major ethnicities in America have also done.

Much of Western scholarship on India and India’s traditions originated during the times of the British colonial rule of India, and even today, the presuppositions and conclusions of that era are considered axiomatic and definitive to the study of India’s traditions. These methods of studying Hindu culture apply western models to non-western phenomena that are presumed to be (or at any rate ought to be) obsolete, and deliberately or inadvertently sustain the social, cultural and political narratives of colonialism and neocolonialism. DCF seeks to widen and diversify the study of these traditions and culture of Indic origin, in such a manner as to being more culturally sensitive and take the self-understanding of these non-western Indic cultures and religions seriously as lived traditions of fellow Americans and include dimensions such as philosophy and ethics from an insider’s (emic) perspective, which barely exist today. In this regard, DCF has observed that other areas of study, such as women’s studies, African American studies, and Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, or Islamic Studies, have all benefited from respectively having women scholars, African American scholars, or scholar-practitioners as active participants in these fields. Such scholars are not questioned about their objectivity, but are, in fact, respected for their unique experiences and perspectives, as well as the depth, nuance, and academic rigor they are able to bring to academia. DCF believes that such scholar-practitioners with deep immersion in Hindu traditions (also called Sampradayas in Sanskrit) would bring the same to Hindu Studies and only enhance academic freedom and foster greater diversity.

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