I spent over nine-years at UCLA and am (no surprise here) an avid alum supporter of the institution. Recently, I got wind that the Dalai Lama will be at UCLA next week.
A big part of the visit will be Dalai Lama’s participating in the symposium “Buddhism and Neuroscience: A Discussion on Attention, Mental Flexibility and Compassion,” with faculty and staff from UCLA’s Semel Institute.
Both UCLA and Harvard are my alma mater, and I have the highest respect for both. But it is one thing for UCLA or Harvard to sponsor a controversial figure like the Dalai Lama, but quite another to sponsor controversial figures in the name of science. Thus, if UCLA or Harvard were to sponsor Osma bin Laden – or even go back in time to sponsor Hitler, I’d be fine. It’s part of the process of pushing the boundary, if you will. But doing this dubiously in the name of science – this shocks my conscience.
Why cannot UCLA have picked Joe Shmoe, my neighbor, as the face of the symposium? Do not the characteristics of attention, mental flexibility and compassion not exist in all of us? Why does it have to be the Dalai Lama and why with such fanfare? Is this symposium about science or politics?
This symposium has gotten me thinking: is UCLA still a venerable institution of education and science, or has religion, politics, and cult personality bankrupted it? Should I be ashamed to be a UCLA Bruin? Is it time for me to sever all my financial ties with the institution, diverting my annual contributions to better causes elsewhere?