Selected Writings and Addresses

Naropa University Statement on the Culture on the Current Movement Against Gun Violence - March 2, 2018
A Message to the Naropa University Community Regarding DACA Repeal - September 6, 2017
State of the University - February 8, 2017

Naropa University Statement on the Current Movement Against Gun Violence

As written in our mission statement, Naropa University is committed to supporting our students as they “explore the inner resources needed to engage courageously with a complex and challenging world, [and] to help transform that world through skill and compassion….” Naropa graduates have powerfully met that mission challenge for four decades.

The shooting in Parkland, Florida is, tragically, just the most recent example of a culture of violence run wild. Naropa fully supports the student-led initiatives that are honestly and courageously taking on the gun lobby and fearlessly engaging those who would cynically conflate the need for reasonable means of protection from the actions of ill-intentioned aggressors with the unfettered creation of an unregulated armed society. 

Not since the protests against the war in Southeast Asia has the United States seen a student-led movement with such promise to spark a powerful social change. Just as was learned from the anti-war movement, when too often we attacked lower level members of the military who were compelled to serve and had no power to change policy, the current gun regulation movement needs to take care not to demonize well-intentioned, basically good individuals who are often from communities not like our own, and who are worried about their own safety and that of their loved ones. We should encourage the current focus on illuminating and criticizing our social failure to provide adequate mental health intervention and care, and to bravely calling out those who, based upon fear of losing political power and financial gain, have for decades created obstacles to the kind of reform to the gun culture needed to re-gain a level of social sanity.

Naropa welcomes this student-led movement and offers our support, our advice when sought, and such resources as we can reasonably deploy in order for us to actively bear witness to the kind of changes that are so desperately needed.

This movement has reached a point of resonance that has made it necessary for many institutions to assure current as well as potential students that participation in actions of protest or civil disobedience in response to gun violence in schools will not influence, change, or affect any student’s status or their potential acceptance by universities to which they have applied. Two such planned instances of civil disobedience that are currently scheduled are a “student walk-out” scheduled to last 17 minutes on March 14, 2018 and the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC and across the country. Naropa supports these actions and will take necessary steps with faculty and staff to ensure that support is offered across the University. This type of activism is vital to both our mission and to the growth of courageous, conscientious, and compassionate human beings.

Naropa is proud to add our voice to those of many other universities to assure any applicant that participation in peaceful protest or acts of civil disobedience will not impact our admissions decision, regardless of any misguided disciplinary actions that might be taken by high school administrators or others in positions of power.

We owe a debt of gratitude for those students who, despite trauma and grief, saw an opportunity to energize a movement and speak out against aggression and greed so clearly and passionately. And who do so despite the efforts to mute their voices and question their motivation.  Naropa is proud to be aligned with this righteous cause.  


Charles G. Lief


A Message to the Naropa University Community 

Diversity, Inclusion and Compassion have been embedded in the curriculum and core values of Naropa University since our founding. More than an academic value or abstraction, we commit to supporting and protecting staff, students, faculty and guests of Naropa, especially those who are most likely to be targeted in the name of public policy. This includes those who are part of the 800,000 plus members of the DACA community, some of whom are part of the Naropa family. This commitment is especially important to Naropa as we were founded by Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, an accomplished teacher and spiritual leader who himself was forced from his homeland as a result of political persecution, and who was offered a home, first in India, then in the United Kingdom and finally in the United States. The history of contemplative education and the mindfulness movement would be written very differently had Trungpa Rinpoche not been offered sanctuary. It is our duty and our privilege to offer support to new generations of people experiencing their own persecution.

In light of the attempts by the President of the United States and his administration to exclude immigrants and refugees, including members of the Muslim community and undocumented students, we believe it is necessary and timely to denounce those action and to clearly state principles and practices that reinforce our commitment and values. In doing so we join other Universities, churches and municipalities across the United States in solidarity. These practices are drawn from the wisdom, compassion and active engagement of our own Naropa Community, as well as the pioneering work of sister institutions to whom we express gratitude. For clarity, there is no established legal definition of “sanctuary” as it applies to offering a place of safety and refuge. A declaration that Naropa will be called a Sanctuary Campus has no force of law and it is important not to create confusion or inadvertently support assumptions about the impact of such a label on the lives, safety and security of those at risk of becoming the victims of government policies of exclusion. 

We believe that what is important is to affirm values and take specific actions which have direct impact on those in our community that we are committed to serving with care. In keeping with those concerns please consider the following statements, re-statements and clarifications.

  • Naropa does not and will not, to the fullest extent of the law, share student information with Immigration enforcement officials. We respect and comply with the protections afforded by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
  • Naropa will not voluntarily give access to any University property, including University owned housing, to immigration officials, for investigative, enforcement or similar purposes.  Any such requests received by any Naropa employee should be sent to the Office of the President, with a copy to the Director of Safety and Facilities. The Office of the President, with advice from legal counsel if deemed necessary, will coordinate the Naropa University response.
  • Naropa employees will not assist ICE, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) or any state or local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to identify and deport undocumented community members.
  • Naropa staff will not ask students to share their immigration status or religious affiliation.
  • Naropa will admit students in keeping with our overall policies of nondiscrimination in the admissions process.
  • Naropa will maintain a resource data base of immigration attorney’s and other counseling support as needed by our undocumented or otherwise at risk students.
  • We reject and will not voluntarily cooperate with any government effort to establish a registry of persons based upon protected classifications such as religion, national origin, race or sexual orientations.
  • Naropa will encourage all members of the community to report bias and hate crime incidents, either experienced or witnessed, in an attempt to stop them from occurring.
  • Naropa endorses the treatment of college campuses as “sensitive locations” by ICE, CBP or any other agency with enforcement authority.
  • Naropa supports the intent and application of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, DACA, and urges Congress to accept its responsibility to protect DACA youth.

From these specific actions and concerns Naropa renews its overall mission to advocate for the transformation of dominant and oppressive systems in order to meet our deep commitment of facilitating positive transformation of people and communities.  This means committing to shining a light on unequal treatment of immigrants and Muslims, People of Color, LGBTQIA+, disabled and other marginalized persons with whom we are in community with at Naropa, as well as those we each encounter more widely.

Please join with me, in community, to advocate for compassionate and wise public policy and especially to care for one another.

Warm Wishes,


Charles G. Lief


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State of the University Address  

Read the transcript of the State of the University address

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