The people who run Maharishi Univiersity of Management (MUM) and the school affiliated with it — Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE) — are, for the most part, our friends and neighbors here in Fairfield. But in their role as keepers of the faith, and in their place in an organizational hierarchy that has little use for democratic process, they sometimes widen the gap between leader and led. Still, from time to time we address our concerns in public, and glimpse the possibilities for greater openness and frank discussion.
Keith Wallace, mentioned below, was the first to publish research on the physiological effects of TM — in Scientific American — and was the University's first president; John Hagelin is a physicist and TM movement leader.
- July 2004

June was a good month for communication on campus.

A few weeks ago, in an atmosphere made unstable by the absence of reliable information about controversial MSAE policies, rumors were brewing and more than a few tempers were rising. A few dozen MSAE parents met to discuss and summarize their concerns. The result was a letter to the school board, centered on a strong request for two-way communication between school administrators and parents — before rather than after major decisions are made. The results so far have been encouraging. School director Ashley Deans responded by inviting four people (parent-selected) to attend a series of board and council meetings to address key issues. This group drew up a plan in which a larger number of parents, representing all grades, will actively participate in school policy meetings throughout the year.

Deans was also very forthcoming at the traditional academic preview meeting for upper school parents, which followed within days of the original parent letter. Straightforward and authentic, he responded to most of the points in the parent letter, explained financial realities and the basis of school policy-making, and — in the spirit of an effective leader who believes in his course — made his case with passion for the soundness of the schoolís fundamental directions.

Near the end of June, John Hagelin addressed a standing-room-only crowd at the Best Western, for a meeting billed as a candid discussion of financial realities at MUM and the TM movement in general. After his planned remarks, Hagelin offered to take questions on any topic — an offer he repeated a number of times: "you can ask me about anything." This kind of open-mike, open-ended session has been extremely rare over the years — and the community has hungered for more of it. Hagelinís meeting was timed to give a boost to the MUM annual fund, but the move toward openness was also genuine. The questions were far from exhausted by the end of the session (many wished it would have continued longer) — but Hagelin expressed willingness to make this kind of forum a more frequent event, perhaps in conjunction with Keith Wallace, and the people at 8000 Now are ready to follow through.

Communication like this is only the beginning of course, an initial opening. What remains for the involved MSAE parents is the long haul of commitment and persistence (through months and years of meetings and politicking); for the MSAE administrators, a new pattern of consistent, respectful, proactive disclosure and discussion; for the leaders at MUM, a bold follow-through on Hagelinís invitation to "ask me anything"; and for all of us, a mature engagement in this shared process of guiding our community into its future. Letís all keep talking.