Dean's Notes: Essentials of Healing

A year has passed since the statements of more than 150 courageous women shocked our conscience and forced us to contend with inconvenient truths.  

Over the last 12 months, numerous changes have been made to restore confidence and redress wrongs of both commission and omission that led to the darkest moment in our university’s history. Many unsung heroes, both women and men, have emerged over the last year and given their all to the institution we love.  

Yet, we are left with a hollow feeling and lack of closure. 
 Despite the desires of the community to heal and begin a new chapter, we cannot seem to turn the page. No doubt, the drip-drip-drip of findings from investigations have exposed the skeletons in our closet, fueling relentless media coverage and slowing the healing process.  

At the same time, we have to take responsibility for self-inflicted wounds. From day one, our communication about the crisis has lacked heart and soul. A steady stream of insensitive statements have added insult to injury. And our inability to articulate an artful and heartfelt apology has left no room for solace, in turn breeding frustration, anger and resentment.  

A true apology is rare these days. My favorite is one offered by David, the young man who slew Goliath and went on to become the mighty king of Israel. At the height of his reign, he was caught in a web of deceit, murder and adultery. In his despondency, he cries for forgiveness, leaving us a model apology from which we can draw some lessons.  

The essentials of an apology are admission of guilt, repentance, resolve to prevent recurrence, and willingness to make reparation. On different occasions, we have seen dibs and drabs of each of these components from our leaders. An unconditional apology connecting all four components has been noticeably absent. 

Such an apology is more than a mental effort hewn out of rationale, reason or justification. It is more than saying sorry. It is the ability to distill and connect emotions. It is about communicating healing sentiments in a tone that is in harmony with the voice of a community. 

To mend hearts and heal wounds we need a salve that is a product of deep remorse and atonement. Hitherto, we have been unable to articulate our thoughts and emotions in a form that can purge us of our pain, doubts and inner demons. Until a heartfelt acknowledgement of past wrongs and the vision of a new future are articulated with authenticity, we will not move to a point of inflection, where healing can begin in earnest.

In Acting President Satish Udpa, we have a leader with the right values and temperament to begin the healing that is much needed on our campus.