I am again disappointed (but not appalled) with Dr. Bendik-Keymer’s letter to the editor, “A challenge to Professor Sarma and to ourselves.”
1. As per my understanding of libel, the statements made in the first letter (Letter 1), “Why it’s good to be an Ivy League reject,” are still libelous. Rather than quibble about the semantic range of the term (that can be left to others better credentialed), please allow me to replace it with “calumnious.” I think that the calumnious claims that were made harm Case Western Reserve University more than they harm either Yale University or the University of Chicago.
2. There is now an inclusion of “evidence” that was not present in Letter 1. While I am glad that the new letter (Letter 2) offers evidence for the calumnious claims made in Letter 1 it seems only to prove that Letter 1 was indeed poorly written. Any CWRU undergraduate would agree that the calumnious claims made in Letter 1 lacked evidence and that the inclusion of new evidence in Letter 1 does not result in a change in the poor grade of Letter 1. Letter 1 was not a draft. Rather, it was only somewhat daft.
3. I did not mention in my letter that I am a graduate of the University of Chicago. I am indeed a graduate. I am honored that Dr. Bendik-Keymer thinks that I embody Chicago-style debate. I see this as a compliment. Such a style is similar to those utilized by scholars of Indian philosophy, called samvada, since around 250 BCE. I am glad that I am consistent with that style too. Again, I see this as a compliment.
4. Forums are like committees—lots of talk and very little action. So, alas, I’ll have to pass. I already address such matters in each and every class that I teach. There is, moreover, no need for a new form of education. Instead, as I have argued and described in previous publications, we should return to the old form, at least the version (samvada) that has existed in the Indian subcontinent for more than 2000 years. In this way, students should be ready, willing and able to question any and all assumptions. If a student has experienced this in my class then I have achieved my goal. If the readers of this letter have wondered, if for only a moment, about presuppositions, then the goal has been achieved. I only hope that our letters and samvada have perfumed CWRU with a climate of audacious irreverence…
Professor of Religious Studies