Naropa’s Graduate Psychology Department Has “Invisible lines and expectations you absolutely will cross”


Naropa (Photo credit: flowercat)

Currently, I am sitting on a developing story of widespread psychological abuse in the graduate psychology department at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, but today, I was given the green light to share this quip from the Naropa survivor:

The grad psychology school is a whole different shabang…. total mindfuck, and catch22… with invisible lines and expectations you absolutely will cross, and any questions for more information, trying to explain yourself or heaven forbid, correcting them, is met with anger and threat of dismissal.

This is a truly disturbing account, and it is only the tip of the iceberg with this poor man’s involvement. It should give you pause to enter the graduate psychology programs at Naropa University. I will stay on the story and I hope to get you the story as soon as possible, but I have an obligation of confidentiality to those who share their stories with me and I respect that obligation totally.


Trungpa’s Influence Still Remains: On a Lama Getting Handsy

Recently, I received an e-mail from someone who is preparing to leave Naropa, and she shared this tidbit with me.

The monk harassment… was Lama Tenpa… he touched and came onto a student friend of mine, and then really really came on to me hard in a disgusting way. Since we’re both rather assertive women, we thought – who ELSE is he doing this to? we reported it to Student Affairs….. and you know what happened? He was sat down for a chat, then wrote us letters, that we could pick up in the student affairs office [re-contacting the victim, anyone?!] The letter said that he now understands naropa and american university policy…..he’s still teaching to this day.

Don’t you just love it? Apparently, Lama Grabby is still teaching at Naropa University, despite the fact that the school knows about him getting a bit too hands on with students and him admitting it, claiming that he now understands Naropa policy, which apparently forgives sexual assault. After all, when you remember that Naropa was founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a man who knew no boundaries with his followers. After all, when your founder forcibly strips two people at a “seminary party” and marries one of his followers before leaving the monastic order when she was fifteen (he was twenty-nine). Let me make it clear, one of their own publications proudly prints the fact that Chogyam Trungpa was a pædophile who abused his position as a religious leader (though, they don’t use that terminology).

So, who wants to get in on my pool on when the sycophantic alumni are going to start denying that there is anything wrong with Naropa?

Paths and Perception

People have opined that the reason I speak against Naropa has more to do with my pursuit of more… practical fields of study than what Naropa has to offer. While it is true that I am pursuing an Associates degree at the Art Institute of Colorado and I plan to pursue a computer science degree at Colorado School of Mines, the fact still remains that some people would see this as my sole reason for talking about Naropa University.

This is not the case. I have a great deal of love, respect and admiration for the vast majority of the liberal arts. I love Women’s Studies, Philosophy, Anthropology, Communication Studies and Sociology – to start with. I love Yoga, Tai Chi, Aikido and Ikebana. I love contemplative thinking (which explains why I am a member of a new age secret society) and I believe that the liberal arts adds of a lot of life and love to the heart of an engineering student.

What I do not like, or abide, is abuse of any kind. I couldn’t begin to tell you how my heart breaks when I receive an e-mail from someone telling me about their experiences and thanking me for having the courage to speak out. These kind of e-mails also help me to keep fighting the good fight against this so-called “University”.

In fact, I have every reason not to be doing this and it adversely affects my personal life. There are people who believe that I am in the wrong for speaking out against Naropa and I felt bad about exposing Naropa… which is hard when people e-mail you telling you their stories and reminding you of the reason why you started in the first place. I will make it clear now, I will continue to write and speak about Naropa until either they stop the abuse or they lose their licensure.

“The Art of Empathy” at a school with none

I recently learned that Naropa University is going to be holding an event on Friday called “The Art of Empathy” and the presenter is Karla McLaren. I don’t know if she knows abut Naropa or not, but here is the message I sent to her all the same:

Dear Karla,

My name is Jessica Sideways and I recently learned that you have been scheduled for an event at Naropa University on Friday, the 25th of October. I hope that you will reconsider and cancel your appearance at Naropa University because it’s leadership is not empathetic but sociopathic.

Recently, I was contacted by a woman whose child was a student at Naropa a few weeks ago. Her daughter was having seizures in class and the instructor gathered the class in a circle and held a discussion on how the other students were feeling about this, while this student was having the seizure! The instructor told her that he was at peace with the student having seizures. I posted the letter I received on my website, where I expose the fraud and abuses of Naropa University here:

I do hope that you will reconsider speaking at Naropa University. Most sincerely,

Jessica Sideways

Michelle: The Instructor “was at peace with her having seizures”

English: Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

English: Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like I said in my previous post, I get some shocking stories from people, current students, parents of students, alumni and employees, about the abuses of Naropa. I treat every story with the confidence level that the correspondent desires because I am more interested in helping people overcome the abuses of Naropa University than to create compelling content. I will never betray the confidence of anyone who sends me a genuine e-mail. A few weeks ago, I received this e-mail from a parent and I have been sitting on this story until the parent was able to get her daughter out of Naropa. Here is Michelle’s story:

I am a parent of a current, until Friday, student. She has been there exactly 4 weeks. It’s been a nightmare! She transferred from Eastern Virginia Medical School. 18 credits did not. They started her out as an M1 but she transferred as an M3. Already seeing patients in Virginia. My daughter has seizure disorder. For the most part it was controlled however upon arriving in Denver the disorder became worse. We were able to get it under control but not before she had had a seizure in a class where the instructor has 18 students gather in circle around her and while holding hands discuss how this made them feel.

Second series of seizures were the following week but this time the same instructor did not allow her to leave. Her apt. being directly across the road. The second seizure in this series resulted in the instructor telling my daughter it was okay. He was at peace with her having seizures. It took 15 minutes for someone to call an ambulance.

So far this has resulted in violations of the disability act.

Now the disability worker informs her this past Friday of her rights. Missing 5 classes would normally result in failure but depending on the teacher, under this disability program, she may be allowed extra time to catch the work up. Keep In mind she has already had these classes. They are M1 classes.. The disability worker does make it clear though that if they had known the severity of my daughters seizures then they would not have accepted her.

Violation of the disability act.

The disability act is federal. Acts being passed by congress makes it federal.

She is currently attempting to withdraw medically so that as pit was put to her, she could not run the risk of being “kicked out” on misconduct. Poor wording on their part. However, true to form, this institution which strongly suggested this is making this difficult as well.

So you will know, I feel this institution believes they have a young person that they can push. I however taught school for over 22 years in Alabama and some of that tenure I taught law. I now have a team of attorneys on stand by as we’ll as my Federal contacts and those in the accreditation department.

I’ve written this as to not redeem my child, but let others know what this institution is like.

Okay, so the instructor has a group of eighteen students sit around this poor student, as she is seizing, and talk about how this made these students feel. Do I really need to tell you how incredibly fucked up this position is? The fact that these students could sit around a student and not phone the emergency services and try to get her the help she needs, instead focusing on your own spiritual path. Let me make it perfectly clear, this woman’s story is credible because of the fact that when I was at Naropa, people there did similar things which tends to give me pause. As for the comment that the instructor was “at peace” with her having seizures, it boggles the mind that this instructor would not be terminated immediately. In the real world, this instructor would have been off the campus ASAP. In the “school” that Trungpa built, however, they practice detachment from the real world at the cost of real human beings.

Naropa is not a disability-friendly school. All three of it’s campuses and it’s student housing apartments present accessibility challenges, but none more so than the Arapahoe campus. Only two of the buildings on the campus are really wheel-chair accessible, the Lincoln Building has no elevator and it’s classrooms are blocked by stairs, including some very steep stairs in some instances that block access to the Lincoln Lecture Hall. I have constantly wondered how Naropa can legally get away with snubbing the disabled. But to threaten to kick her out on misconduct because she is disabled and refusing to accommodate her needs is illegal. To tell her that if they knew about her disability, they would not have accepted her as a student is illegal.

When I talk about the abuses of Naropa University, usually I talk about the lack of ethics it takes to advertise an anatomy class as being scientific when it has alternative medicine woo attached to it. But abuses like this add a darker dimension to the cult-like nature of Naropa University, where empathy and doing the right thing are an after-though, if they are thought about at all. When someone is having a seizure, I don’t gather the other people around me to talk about how it made me feel while the person seizing is still in need of help. I call a fucking ambulance and that is what the people here should have done. My only question that I would have for these students is… why didn’t you call for help?

I hope Michelle continues to pursue legal action against Naropa University and I am more than happy to continue providing coverage on this story as it develops. Naropa University should be held accountable for it’s fraud and abuses.

Not just an anger issue, it’s a justice issue

I get some pretty interesting e-mails from this site. Some ask me for more information on Naropa’s programs (already working on a detailed discussion of their programs), some share heartbreaking stories of fraud and abuse from Naropa, and some tell me that I must have something wrong with me for wanting to see justice done. This next e-mail I am about to share comes from someone from that third category. Bob writes,

You have a lot of anger. Let it go and move onwith [sic] your life. This blog cant [sic] be spiritually healthy for you.

And he does have a point. I do have anger. When I see someone being abused, I get angry. When I see some con artist lying to people to make a buck off of people who don’t know better, I first work to inform the people and then to see to it that the con artist is punished. This is what I believe in. It is this thing called empathy and I know that when you go to a “school” where instructors and students would sit around in a circle talking about how a woman seizing in class makes them feel, while the woman is still seizing, your empathy is compromised so I understand that you are shocked by my anger.

The thing is, I could just move on with my life and for the last year, I did just that. I have been in therapy and at my last session on Monday, we talked about my negative attitude and my upset with things and there are some things that I am upset about that I need not be upset about. Naropa University’s continued abuse of students was not one of those things. I have an objective reason to be upset with Naropa and I have to speak out and say that it is not right to abuse people like this. I could move on, but I couldn’t like with myself if I did, which is why despite the legal threats and the whole debacle with my previous site, I still persist in working to hold Naropa accountable for it’s fraud and abuses. Naropa needs to stop abusing people.

As for my “spiritual health”, Naropa was bad for my spiritual health. It made me feel worse, not better, and it’s cheap spirituality comes at a high price, your empathy. Chogyam Trungpa didn’t give a shit about the people he hurt and he justified his anti-social behaviour under the guise of “crazy wisdom”. That is the tradition and legacy of Trungpa, and I believe that a positive way of interacting with that legacy is to educate and inform people. I choose anger over apathy because I care. The better question is why don’t you care, Bob?

UPDATE: The e-mail address Bob provided does not work. Why am I not surprised by this?

On the Issue of Objectivity

Hello, readers. I haven’t posted in a while but I figured that I would kick things off with a letter I recently received. Jigme writes:

“No, I am not. You are correct, but I never claimed to be objective. I would rather stick with the facts and live a honest life instead of posting things that I do not agree with.” I am just wondering how one can stick to the facts while at the same time not be objective. Also, i would love to know why someone would attend Naropa without researching its founder, its history, and its vision before spending enough money to go to Harvard, literally go to Harvard. Naropa University was in Trungpa’s own words a “one hundred year project.” If its good enough for Allen Ginsberg, certainly its good enough for you, me, and anyone else who is not yet the voice of a generation. Excuse me, for not being objective, i was being subjective. You are right about one thing, Naropa University is lacking in admittance standards. Wait i’m sorry, you didn’t complain about that clearly and the school you chose after Naropa, is less challenging so you should do very well. People who don’t understand Chogyam Trungpa’s intentions don’t need to be there; so, i thank you for clarifying that people should never pay thousands of dollars to go to a school that they haven’t thoroughly researched. Unfortunately those same people would have to actually do some research to find your blog. But i would like to thank you on behalf of all Buddhist practitioners, because without folks like you, we would have no one to practice patience and compassion with.

So, the first thing the author asks is how I can present the facts and still not be objective? Simple, I am a human being, warts and all, and I have my own opinions, thoughts and feelings. I feel that it is an important duty to expose fraud and abuse so other people will not continue to be abused. I also feel that an important mechanism to do this is to present the evidence and I do my best to get the evidence out there, citing my sources so that you can go and read up on Naropa’s abuses yourself. I have my own opinions, but they are backed with documentation.

As for the research, it is actually quite difficult for people to do the research when Naropa University sics it’s attorneys upon people who dare to speak out online. I know this is true because this is how my previous site on the subject, the Naropa Biz, was taken down.

You know, some people have said that Tom Cruise is the face of a generation. Does that absolve Scientology of it’s fraud and abuses? No? Then how come using celebrities like Allen Ginsberg to shift the attention off of the abuses that Naropa perpetuates against it’s own students?

If it wasn’t for Naropa, I wouldn’t get e-mails every so often from people like yourself who take issue with the evidence that Naropa is actively harming people and misrepresenting it’s programs. I know that Naropa is a fairly young institution and I don’t hold that against them. What I do hold against them, however, is having an anatomy class where the lab requirements are negligible when compared to schools that you denigrate as “less challenging” at best and includes lectures on chakras, meridian lines and the five elements. I hold this against them because this was, and still is, a science class to Naropa under their core curriculum requirements.

You know who I also get e-mails from? I get e-mails from people interested in one of Naropa’s programs but want to hear both sides. I get e-mails from people who are escaping Naropa after realising what they got themselves into. These e-mails encourage me to continue to post an alternative view to Naropa’s glossy brochures and cult-like recruitment tactics. Normally, when someone sends me their personal story, in a gesture of empathy and compassion, I am more interested in figuring out how to help the person escape and heal from their experiences than slapping their story on the Internet and some people flat out refuse to share their story. This is okay, I want people to know that they are not alone. At the same time, however, it would be nice if I had other people’s experiences to add to the objective data that while Naropa has a Harvard like bill, it delivers a sub-community college level of higher education in terms of helping to educate, equip and empower it’s students to face the real world, in whatever way that means for them. Which is why it is so fortunate that I have recently received a story that I have been given the green light to share with my readers here.

Tomorrow, the story will be posted and I am going to start being a lot more active in making Naropa accountable. You can practice patience all you want with me, I will be over here – helping to expose the fraud and abuses of Naropa University and providing people with the necessary information to make a clear decision about whether they should attend Naropa or not.