I have always been a nervous, anxious sort of person. When I was an undergrad, I helped myself and mitigated my inclination by reciting the Bene Gesserit litany from Frank Herbert’s Dune. It helped tremendously with exams and deadlines. The image above states the litany in its entirety. Here it is again:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Lately, I have much to be fearful and anxious about. I imagine things will be all right. Eventually. At this moment, I’ve also come to fear taking a stand, claiming an opinion, having feelings. Speaking is definitely risky. But, as the Bene Gesserit order wisely described, silence motivated by fear brings total obliteration. Speaking, choosing a side, having feelings. These are all costly. So is remaining silent. Choosing not to choose, while it can be defended, also exacts a price. And allows others to choose sides on our behalf. The Bene Gesserit litany reminds us to face our fears. Great sentiments, but still, they are easier said than done. Ultimately, the choice comes down to this: of all the consequences before me, which ones can I live with? And which ones will annihilate the best parts of me? The answers to these questions are often the ones that lead me to what I do. Friends and family who know me best understand and witness first-hand the agony I go through.
In the spirit of courageous action despite fearfulness, I have some questions about the Salaita affair that I’ve been thinking about these last few days. From my vantage point as a distance education graduate student, and one who very much cares about equity and inclusion, I am wondering about the politics that must be going on at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s upper administration. The identity of Chancellor Wise as an Asian American woman in a position of great power at an R1 academic institution in the United States has not slipped my notice. In fact, it has given me pause when expressing my dismay and any criticism of the damaging decision to un-hire Dr. Salaita. Is there a particular reason why Chancellor Wise is carrying the burden of this unpopular decision? Why isn’t UIUC President Dr. Bob Easter, who is a step higher in the UIUC organization chart, the bearer of this news? Is this a simple matter of the decision and burden belonging solely to the Chancellor’s Office? Even so, does the UIUC President’s Office have a say? Or is something else going on? If the Office of the UIUC President does hold an official opinion, what could that be? Is it something we could expect to be revealed soon?
In thinking through how one could use a critical race theory lens on these events at UIUC, the identity politics of the actors involved are crucial for greater understanding and illumination. And it seems that there are more actors at play in the Salaita affair than we first realize.
I do think that the events surrounding Salaita and UIUC’s upper administration are inciting fear and anxiety among academics, students, and higher education staff. Those feelings are making many of us do things that are not in keeping with our better selves. I do hope we find a way beyond the fear and silence. No matter what you may think of the politics surrounding the events at UIUC, I urge you, dear friends, to be brave. Find and use your voice. Remember: Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.