NEWS’ VIEW: Transparency in the Chaplain’s Office

We must maintain the integrity of religious life at Yale

For nine years, Indigo Blue played a crucial role in the lives of many Yale students. For Buddhist students, the center and its spaces enabled them to practice their faith among a community of their peers; for other students, regardless of faith, Indigo Blue provided meaningful respite from the pace and pressures of life at Yale.

Yet Indigo Blue is no more. Over three weeks ago, Yale’s Buddhist chaplaincy was unceremoniously disaffiliated from the University, denying many students a formal and functional spiritual home on campus. For over three weeks, these students have tried to determine the future of their faith on campus against the opaque background of a silent Chaplain’s Office.

Over three weeks later, it’s time for some answers.

Much has been said concerning Bruce Blair ’81, the former Buddhist chaplain at Yale. And it remains unclear why he was fired. We take issue with this lack of transparency.

If Blair’s actions were reprehensible to the degree that an immediate firing was a necessity, it becomes incumbent on the University to notify the students who worked closely with Blair. Given the fact that Blair continues to host Indigo Blue in his own home, students continuing to attend have a right to be notified if the University has serious concerns about Blair’s conduct or professionalism.

If Blair’s actions were not so egregious, the University still owes students an explanation as to why he was fired, and why their place of worship was closed without notice or justification. It also owes students solutions.

A focus on Blair overlooks the larger issue. Indigo Blue was disaffiliated with no clear vision for the future of the Buddhist chaplaincy, without a replacement chaplain or open, accessible spaces for worship. In the messy processes of hiring and firing, vacancies can be inevitable, but the University must avoid impeding religious practices in the process.

Buddhist students should not have to endure a lengthy “transition period” as the University scrambles to restore their religious life on campus, as though the human consequences of disaffiliation were a mere afterthought. Every moment students lack a spiritual home — and a spiritual leader — on campus is a moment that the University fails to fulfill the promises made to these students upon matriculation.

Having stumbled in their initial handling of the Indigo Blue situation, it has become incumbent on the Chaplain’s Office to rectify the harm caused to Buddhist students. This means expediting the process through which a new Buddhist chaplain is selected, reopening sacred spaces and responding to the concerns of Buddhist students with concern and compassion, rather than capped meetings and closed doors.

When we return from Thanksgiving break, we look forward to seeing Buddhists able to worship and Yalies able to meditate.

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