Last Thursday, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama announced that he would be stepping down as political head of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Emory administrators say his announcement should have no effect upon Emory’s relationship with the Dalai Lama or the University’s partner institutions in India.
“The Emory-Tibet Partnership (ETP) has been based not on political considerations but on intellectual and academic interests as well as mutual respect for our differing religious traditions,” Vice President and Deputy to the President Gary Hauk wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel
Study abroad programs to Dharamsala, India will not see any immediate effect, according to Associate Dean of International and Summer Programs Philip Wainwright.
“Both [programs] are in partnership with institutes of the government-in-exile and certainly benefit from the support of His Holiness, and I don’t see that that’s going to change,” Wainwright said. “Certainly our partners abroad are just as committed as they’ve ever been.”
Because of Emory’s strictly apolitical relationship with the Dalai Lama, College junior Max Ruppersburg and co-president of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) said he believed relations would stay the same.
“Emory probably wouldn’t want to become involved with politics because that would displease the Chinese government, and any partnership with the ETP would not be seen favorably if we had a political relationship,” he said.
“As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power,” he announced at an anniversary of the Tibetana people’s 1959 uprising against Communist Lhasan Chinese authorities. “Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect.”
Students said they were not surprised by the Dalai Lama’s announcement because of his past efforts to remove himself from power.
Ruppersburg pointed to the Dalai Lama’s decision to revoke his own powers of absolute appointment to the Tibetan government-in-exile parliament several years ago as an example of his gradual reduction of powers.
“It’s a very smart decision because now that he’s stepping down, he’s encouraging the election of a new political leader in exile,” he said.
The potential elections have also raised concerns over the political approach the Tibetan government will assume, according to Ruppersburg. With the Dalai Lama retiring from his political advocacy for “The Middle Way” — or the path of least destruction —, the exile community may fall into a schism between following “The Middle Way” or choosing the path of political independence, or “rangzin,” Ruppersburg explained.
College senior Mary Vess and outgoing president of SFT also said the Dalai Lama’s announcement came as no surprise, and added that this move does not tarnish his visibility.
“People will continue to frame him as the political leader, and he will probably continue to be the face of Tibetan independence as he is by far the most visible Tibetan in the world,” Vess said.
The Emory-Tibet Partnership of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative focuses on a two-way exchange between the people of Tibet and ideas, according to their website.
The partnership aims to merge Western thought with the knowledge of Tibetan monks and nuns.
— Contact Roshani Chokshi.