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University of California refuses to divulge syllabi of goddess Kali course: Hindus upset

University of California Santa Barbara

“Elite” public research institution—University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)—has refused to publicly disclose what it teaches in its course “Dark Goddesses/Black Madonnas”, which includes a section about Hindu goddess Kali.

In an email response to the request of distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed for curriculum/syllabus of this course, Monica Dussert of UCSB’s Public Record Office, wrote: Per our campus council we will not be releasing the requested information. Syllabi are owned by the faculty member, not the University…, and thus are not public records.  These records are also exempt from disclosure pursuant to federal copyright law…At this time we consider your request closed.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada today, said that public universities funded by taxpayer dollars should be transparent and should not be in the business of suppressing information from the seekers.

Rajan Zed indicated that before approaching Public Records Office, he unsuccessfully wrote requesting detailed curriculum to UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, Executive Vice Chancellor, Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, Dean of College of Letters, Dean of Social Sciences, Dean of Humanities; and Department of Religious Studies’ Chair, Graduate Studies Director, Graduate Program Advisor, Undergraduate Adviser, course instructor Assistant Professor Elizabeth Pérez. Fabio Rambelli, Department Chair, wrote back “…our syllabi are proprietary materials…We are therefore unable to provide you with that information”. Others either did not respond or expressed their inability.

Zed points out that a posting in the Department’s Twitter account described goddess Kali as “wild, violent, and sensual”; while she is widely worshipped in Hinduism and personifies Sakti or divine energy. She is considered the goddess of time and change. Some Bengali poets described her as supreme deity.

Trivializing a highly revered Hindu deity and then refusing to divulge what was being taught in the course was highly inappropriate for a public university like UCSB, which claimed to be a “leading center for teaching and research” and number five public university; Rajan Zed noted, and added that Hindus were seeking an official apology from UCSB.

Zed further said that Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken frivolously. Symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled, Zed stated.

UCSB, founded in 1891 and spread across over 1,000 acres of California coast; enrolls 24,346 students, offers over 200 majors-degrees-credentials; and boasts of six Nobel laureates, over 60 Guggenheim Fellows, and home to 10 national institutes and centers. It claims to be a “a learning and living environment like no other”.

Its Religious Studies Department, established in 1964, claims to be the “largest religion department in the University of California system, and one of the most diverse religion departments in the world”

“RG ST 62 Dark Goddesses/Black Madonnas”, a Fall 2018 undergraduate class, showed up “full” on UCSB website. 

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