By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
A TINY FRACTION OF OUR SOKA UNIVERSITY LETTERS
As a current third-year student, I was appalled upon reading this article and the fallacious accusations it contained [Michelle Woo's "The School On a Hill," March 11]. Upon arriving at Soka University of America, I had no prior knowledge regarding Soka Gakkai International (SGI) practices or beliefs. Three years later, I have only the minimal understanding of the organization.
In the time I have been a student here, I have never felt pressured to attend any type of SGI-related activity. Although it is common knowledge that a percentage of Soka personnel are practicing members of the SGI, not once has it been brought up in discussion, whether in the classroom or otherwise. It is true that photographs of and by Daisaku Ikeda and some of his writings can be found on display in various parts of the university; the fact of the matter is he is the founder of this institution, and just like any other university, we hold a sense of respect and pride in him. If it were not for his dedication and desire to create an institution to foster wholesome human beings, this university would not be in existence today.
Like with any other religion, there are individuals who feel passionately about it and do try to share their ideas and beliefs with others. However, the environment at Soka has always been one of familiarity and comfort, and simply declining offers to attend SGI events or discussions will more than suffice. I practice Christianity and feel as though I can freely discuss my beliefs with other students without being judged in any way.
Reading this article saddened me because I take so much pride in being a student of this institution. The knowledge I have gained here through the years and the growth I have undergone have made me into someone that I love and admire. Seeing the way in which the place I love so much was portrayed due to ignorance and lack of research offends me deeply. I only hope actions will be taken to repair the potential damage this article may cause.
Veronica Ortega, via e-mail
At my sworn deposition in the Gaye Christoffersen case, I was confronted with the charge of wanting to get rid of non-Gakkai faculty so that only Gakkai faculty would remain. It seems Dr. Christoffersen was convinced I was a Gakkai member, a fact that, if true, would still give her fabrication only a problematic degree of plausibility. After denying the charge and confirming I was not a Gakkai member, Christoffersen's lawyer suspended the deposition, knowing it was pointless to continue with their planned series of questions. After the break, their new series of questions was about whether I was discriminated against because I was not a Gakkai member. I have never been discriminated against for not being a Gakkai member, but I have instead thrived personally and professionally at a place that is and with people who are dear to me.
The Christoffersen case was dismissed so quickly for lack of merit that I did not need to take the next legal step, which was to sign my deposition transcript. In November 2010, Judge [Donald] Miles of the State Bar Court agreed with the State Bar that "disbarment of Respondent [Christoffersen's lawyer] is called for . . . and . . . is necessary to protect both the public and the profession." The disbarment recommendation was mainly for "moral turpitude, misappropriation" and "moral turpitude, misrepresentation" in cases unrelated to the article. The same lawyer, though, was involved in other cases mentioned in the article.
It is standard that campus administrators are restricted from commenting on personnel matters; however, this is not true of others on campus, and those others are beginning to also fill in missing pieces (concerning Orin Kirshner, for example) with their online postings and wishing they had been contacted, too.
Phat Vu, Associate Professor of Physics, Soka University of America, via e-mail
I would agree with some arguments in this article, if they were properly discussed. Unfortunately, much of this seems to be a work of literature, rather than anything supported by evidence. Some of this article did demonstrate an impartial tone, with the discussions of those who say religious diversity is accepted at the school. I can appreciate that because I am sure many other writers who criticize Soka University wouldn't consider mentioning this part.
The fact is, this article exaggerates truth. There are many professors who are in SGI; that is the truth. Gaye Christoffersen's statements could be truths—it could be true the non-SGI professors are there to give the school credibility. It's funny how this works out because I would agree with one of the commenters that Christoffersen was not a great professor. But she definitely had what it takes—she is probably what you would expect out of a professor in the real world. Experts do not always make good teachers. Maybe these credible professors just cannot fit into the values of this school because its values are much more humanistic than those of other schools. Another truth: Most likely, this population of SGI professors does make non-SGI professors uncomfortable. It would be more surprising if they weren't uncomfortable because of how SGI members portray themselves. Their faith is a strong, prideful faith.