American Buddhism: Unraveling a Scandal

For several months (or in fact, possibly much longer), a former student of Ken McLeod based in Montreal, Canada, has been attempting to put forth a grievance of misconduct on the part of McLeod, a well known American Buddhist teacher and principle teacher of Unfettered Mind (UM) a California-based organization dedicated to modern, pragmatic Buddhism.

The details are still murky, with the former student understandably reluctant to make public the full scale of the actions and relationships in question. However, the fact that there is a problem has become public, and was brought to my attention (along with the former student’s blog) just over a week ago. In that time the issue and blog were mentioned, though only in passing, at the Sweeping Zen website. Students of American Buddhism may find it quite worrying that Ken McLeod’s name is mentioned in the same breath as Richard BakerEido ShimanoDennis Genpo Merzel and others whose charismatic teaching careers were marred by ethical lapses. It is hoped that by discussing the issue here, further clarity can develop so that all parties involved can best move forward with their lives.

According to a blog post dated June 9, 2012, the former student states that she has begun collaborating with An Olive Branch, a Buddhist organization “dedicated to fostering peaceful and effective solutions for spiritual and non-profit organizations” to discuss the UM policy and to put forth her allegation along with one other.

In defense of UM, the president of their Board of Directors, Stephanie Siebert, asserts that no such allegations have been made, with Ivan instead playing email “cat and mouse” in efforts to resolve the issue (July 23 email posted by Ivan). She stated that UM does have a grievance policy available to Ivan and others if they wish to follow it (it’s not clear when the current policy was enacted or placed online).

However, Ivan claims that the policy is insufficient. In an August 4 letter to Robert Conrad, Secretary to the Board of Directors at UM, she states:

1) The only “policy and procedure” Ms. Siebert has offered so far is that I must submit my grievance to her alone and trust her to convey it to the UM BOD.
2) Grievant2 (in an anonymous comment to my post of August 2 which I have verified) states  that, when she submitted her grievance to Ms. Siebert, it was denied by KM and dismissed  summarily by Ms. Siebert.

In his Aug 16 response, Mr. Conrad writes, in part:

I have reviewed some of the correspondence between you and Ken McLeod in which you acknowledged your failed marriage occurring long before you met Mr. McLeod and your desire to have an intimate relationship with Mr. McLeod (with, I might add, no encouragement on his part) after he ceased consulting with you and after he advised you to seek professional help on your marriage.

He also says that he hopes to put forth a full reply to her letter by the end of August.

These claims, the former student writes (aug 24), constitute “false and unsubstantiated judgements about me and the relationship I had with Ken, this time adding disparaging and false remarks about my marriage to my ex-husband.” She furthermore worries that Mr. Conrad’s email treats her more as an adversary and less as a greivant, thus making any open, honest, and fair procedure between herself and the board increasingly unlikely.

I welcome feedback, concerns, criticisms, etc in the comments area and hope that both the former student and those associated with Unfettered Mind can find a way to move forward.

  • http://buddhatrieste.blogspot.com/ Matthew O’Connell

    As you say, murky at best. I think we should avoid making any unnecessary accusations. I look forward to Mr McLeod presenting his side of the situation. Judging by the tone of her email, the situation may be more personal, rather than one of abuse of power. Let’s not judge before the facts are out.

  • Slan

    I agree with you Mathew, this looks like another blog to slander Buddhist while disguising as a Buddhist blog.

  • kunga

    this is no ethical issue

    • Margaret

      @Matthew: It would be wonderful if we could hear Ken McLeod’s side of the story. The whole reason for P. Ivan going public with her story was the complete silence from Ken and UM for more than two years. That silence has continued since the issue became public. And an abuse of power can certainly arise within a personal relationship; the two are not mutually exclusive.
      @Slan: Have you caught up on your reading (e.g. Ivan’s blog and Sweeping Zen)? What do you think now?
      @kunga: How do you figure that there’s no ethical issue involved in a teacher violating the boundaries of his relationship with a student? What would you call it?

  • http://theendlessfurther.com David

    Justin, you invited criticism, so here goes: I find this a rather odd post. Do you have a connection with Unfettered Mind or Ken McLeod? If not, I am wondering why you think discussing this on your blog site would help any of the parties move forward. I agree with Matthew that it does sound more personal, but who knows? Until we do, until we know the full scope of the situation, it seems to me that it is these people’s business and not ours. Definitely, to refer to it as a scandal strikes me as a bit premature.

    I know next to nothing about any of these folks, but I say let them try to work it out for themselves. If there is something rotten here, I have no doubt we’ll hear about it. I have no tolerance for teachers who abuse their positions, and I believe it is a problem that needs to be discussed, but first we need to know the facts and have a clear idea of what we’re discussing.

    • Justin Whitaker

      All good comments and questions, David. First, no, I don’t have any personal connection with the teacher/group. I was invited to look it over and perhaps mention it by a friend/fellow academic who has had such a connection. Certainly, things like this should be handled internally if/when they can. One thing that should be added by P. Ivan or the Board, if they wish, is a clear timeline of attempts at a resolution. Ivan, in making the issue public, claims to be exhausted and stonewalled in her attempts. The Board members who have responded to her don’t see an issue or attempts on her part to bring forth a solution. In any case, now that it’s public, it’s worth drawing attention to for the sake of awareness. If there was misconduct, then it’s best to get it discussed/resolved sooner and more openly; if there was no misconduct, then its best to get Ken McLeod and UM’s names cleared publicly (before they’re mentioned, briefly, in any more articles about Zen sex scandals).

  • P. Ivan

    Justin,

    Thank you for mentioning my blog and thanks to all the commenters whose sharp questions and comments make clear what needs to be said. It seems, understandably, that they did not take the time to study what is documented on my blog.

    I wrote my blog because of my dissatisfaction and frustration with the way my attempts to communicate with the board of directors of Unfettered Mind were handled by Stephanie Siebert, board president. When I first contacted Ms. Siebert, there was no grievance procedure in place other than to write to her, who knew about my relationship with Ken McLeod as his personal friend, confidante and advisor at the time of our relationship.

    Ms. Siebert dismissed out of hand the separate grievance of another woman, who also complained about some of Ken’s behaviours that occurred during the same time period as my relationship with him. Ms Siebert would not provide me with any other person to talk to nor even provide me with the names of the other board members, information which legally should be a matter of public record.

    I first contacted Ms. Siebert in January of 2011. By February 2011, she dismissed both my complaint and the complaint of the other grievant with no investigation of any kind other than to accept Ken McLeod’s word against ours.

    I finally obtained the names of the board members with the help of An Olive Branch and found ways to contact them this summer of 2012. The grievance policy now in place was posted very recently in response to my letter to Mr. Robert Conrad, Secretary of the Board and an attorney. In that letter I make clear a number of untruths sent privately behind my back to three well known Buddhist teachers I had contacted for advice and support. Anyone can read for themselves my summary of Ms. Siebert’s false statements and my documented refutations linked above or here:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/103061119/Letter-to-UM-BOD-Secretary-Robert-Conrad-August-4-2012

    Easiest to summarize are these:

    1) Ms. Siebert lied when she said I was the only one with a grievance against Ken McLeod.

    2) Ms. Siebert lied when she stated that I never had a relationship of any kind with Ken McLeod.

    To date neither Ms. Siebert, Ken McLeod, Mr Conrad nor anyone from Unfettered Mind has acknowledged her unethical behavior or retracted her lies. She is still, to the best of my knowledge, president of UM and the grievance policy now in place still depends on her as first point of contact after private attempts to resolve grievances have failed.

    If anyone here can explain the necessity of those lies and UM’s efforts to stonewall grievants, I invite them to do so.

    Let us assume for a moment that I and the other grievant, two educated, professional women, are psychotics who have concocted our stories from fantasy. Why were Ms. Siebert’s lies necessary? And why would Ken McLeod, one of whose claimed fields of expertise is organizational communication, not address those lies or attempt to redress the damage done by the way the president of his organization mishandled two grievants? Some of your commenters seem to be waiting for his response. So am I.

    For a year and a half I have withheld my story in the hope that UM would come forth with an appropriate, fair grievance procedure to contain its telling. Unfortunately I now cannot trust them to do that and will be telling my story publicly. I have no board, lawyer or reputation as a Buddhist teacher on my side. As your readers form their opinions, I would ask that the lies and lack of transparency I have documented be kept in mind.

  • http://theendlessfurther.com David

    Dr. Ivan, I did take time to study what is documented on your blog and I read the letters on Scribd. The heart of your complaint is your claim of an intimate relationship with McLeod, and you say that you proved as false Ms. Siebert’s counter-claim that there was no relationship. Yet, the only proof you offer is an oblique reference by McLeod in a letter to your ex-husband about having violated his own sense of ethics, which, frankly, could mean a number of things. Furthermore, we know nothing about this other grievant or the exact nature of her grievance, and as Justin mentioned, we are not presented with a clear timeline of attempts at a resolution.

    You write that you have no lawyer or reputation as a Buddhist teacher on your side, and based on that statement, it seems that one of your motives in coming forward is to gather some support. Perfectly understandable, but I think you will find that difficult to accomplish as long as the situation remains so hazy. I can appreciate that it must be hard to share details of your personal life in public, and I have no particular wish to learn them. I can also appreciate that McLeod and UM may not be eager to air any dirty linen, if that’s what it is, in public as well.

    As far as I’m concerned it’s up to you and McLeod/UM to either prove or disprove the allegation of misconduct. So far, all I see is a fog of innuendo. “As your readers form their opinions” – yes, I do have an opinion about fog: it’s foggy.

    • P. Ivan

      Dear David,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, but you have misunderstood “the heart of my complaint”, which to date has not been to submit “proof” about my relationship to Ken McLeod, but to encourage the board of Unfettered Mind to adopt a bonafide and transparent grievance procedure by which claims by grievants can be submitted and treated in a fair and ethical fashion.

      The board of Unfettered Mind has stonewalled my attempts to submit my grievance for over a year and a half and, in response to my blog, the president of the board wrote secret emails to people in which she lied about me and the existence of any relationship I had with Ken McLeod (of which, if you read carefully, David, I have proved she had previous knowledge).

      In terms of the “hazy” nature of my relationship to Mr. McLeod and the need for a clearer timeline with details, I have already said that I will be revealing my story. I intend to do this as soon as I can. But, in fairness to the board of Unfettered Mind and to the other grievant, I decided to first make every effort possible to have them make available to me and to her a valid grievance procedure to clear up the “fog”. But they are only adding to it.

      • renate kinscheck

        In the meantime Patricia, you are smearing Ken McLeod’s name.. he is being called an abuser- someone guilty of sexual misconduct by people like Myoan Grace Schireson. I don’t think that what you are doing is right at all. you are leaking partial truths.

        • Margaret

          Renate:
          Have you read Patricia’s blog, especially the most recent entry where she tells her story?
          http://patriciaivanconnections.blogspot.com/2012/09/my-story
          Can you tell me exactly how Patricia is ‘smearing Ken McLeod’s name’? How do you know that she is ‘leaking partial truths’? Do you have other information? What is it? How did you get it? From whom? There has been no response *at all* from the UM Board and in particular from Ken McLeod, to Patricia’s story–only a blustering letter to Sweeping Zen making vague threats about lawsuits. Patricia has told her story. George Draffan has independently provided support for her story. The long, inexplicable silence from UM in general and from Ken in particular does not, to my mind, constitute a denial of her story. Remember, Ken does not only teach reconciliation and conflict resolution in his retreats; he is also in the business of teaching mediation techniques to corporate executives in Los Angeles and elsewhere (see http://kenmcleod.com/12). He in particular and UM by extension (since UM is to all intents and purposes Ken McLeod) should know how to respond in this kind of situation. So why have we not heard anything from him?

  • John

    David,
    I read the blog differently. The “heart of the complaint” (so far) is that there is is no ethical grievance procedure. Everything else has been to substantiate that claim, not to argue any case against McLeod.

    What Siebert wrote (in secret, not as part of a transparent procedure) was that there was no relationship OF ANY KIND, between McLeod and Ivan. There were two quoted passages in the letter to Conrad, not one. The one you don’t mention was directly from McLeod to Ivan in 2009. It mentions Siebert as his friend. In other words, there was a relationship, Siebert knew about it and and yet she says there was none.

    You also seem to dismiss the point that Siebert denied the existence of any other grievant. You state that you know nothing about that grievant. But Ivan quotes directly from an email from someone at An Olive Branch that confirms that grievant’s existence. Siebert said that Ivan was the only one complaining and she clearly was not.

    It is fair to say Ivan hasn’t publicly documented her claim of misconduct yet, but she has amply documented serious issues with the President of the board and the way UM handles grievances. There is nothing foggy about that.

  • http://theendlessfurther.com David

    If there wasn’t an allegation of misconduct then there’d be no need to lodge a grievance. That’s what I meant by “heart of the complaint.” Yes, we know there is another grievant but we don’t know what her story is. I am sympathetic to the frustration that occurs when organizations try to stonewall grievances but as I said, I don’t know any of these people so I don’t have a side. I’m just saying that to me it’s not a scandal until it is unraveled and the incident is more fully documented and misconduct is proven.

  • John

    David,
    It sounds like you heart is in the right place. If you are sympathetic to the frustration that occurs when a grievant is being stonewalled by an organization, then I think you might be sympathetic here, since that seems to be Ivan’s main point. You don’t know the allegation of the other grievant but you know she exists and the President of organization lied about her existence in secret to make a problem go away. You know no one at the organization has admitted this or the other manipulations and lies involved.

    A grievance procedure is a type of hearing, a way to be heard. If it is conducted by people who are underhanded, manipulative and make it very plain they do not want others to hear or be heard, then it is not worth much. You seem to be saying that you cannot support a fair hearing until you know that the people calling for it have a good case. With all due respect, that seems backwards.

  • http://theendlessfurther.com David

    John, I’m all for both grievant’s receiving a fair hearing by the organization involved, and for Ivan discussing it on her blog or McLeod on his, if he has one. I’m just uncomfortable about having a hearing on the blog of someone unconnected with the incident where only the tip of the iceberg is presented and it’s referred to as a scandal. Seems premature. That’s all I’m saying.

  • http://theendlessfurther.com David

    I might add that I’m sure Justin means well. Bye for now.

  • Justin Whitaker

    Just a quick comment – David, these are good points and worth addressing. First, I don’t want to draw attention away from Patricia’s blog and what has been presented there. But I presume that all of this was brought to my attention in part because I would be basically neutral in presenting it and in part because of the wider audience this blog would reach.

    As for the term ‘scandal’, yes, I suppose a better term might have been chosen. I wanted to encompass what was happening, as best I could. To call it ‘accusations’ or a ‘grievance’ might capture part of it, but it also miss key aspects: people can have accusations or grievances that is properly dealt with and thus doesn’t really merit further mention. I thought about calling it a ‘potential’ scandal, or adding a question mark, but I thought those would be more of a problem than just the word ‘scandal’ alone. Given the attention the word has received (here and on Google+), I can probably safely say, I was wrong. I’d request proposals for renaming the post, but again, I don’t want to draw too much away from the actual issue at hand.

    My own interest involves my previously stated desire for more accountability in Buddhist groups in general, perhaps by way of some broad oversight committee, a sort of Consumer Reports for the Buddhist world… I think such a thing could be great for students wondering, “is this teacher legit…” – teachers wondering, “how do I deal with potential issues with students” and everyone looking for the kinds of codes of ethics and grievance procedures that might help Buddhist groups grow in a healthy and supportive manner.

  • http://theendlessfurther.com David

    Justin, I wasn’t going to comment any further, but I’ll leave this last note for the time being. I am very sympathetic to this issue. It took 12 years for me to realize that the “fearless leader” of the Soka Gakkai was a complete fraud. Stuff like what’s been described here went on all the time in that organization and on a large scale and it was always swept under the rug.

    However, it is a complicated issue and responsibility does not just fall on the teacher side. A Consumer Reports for Buddhism is an intriguing idea, but there is a potential for abuse there, too. I don’t know what the answer is, but I have refrained from discussing the particulars of any incidents like this on my blog because I don’t belong to any of those groups and I don’t feel it’s my place to stick my nose in their affairs. But that’s my own personal choice. Reading about this incident, I felt a little like a voyeur. But perhaps that’s just my problem.

    • Justin Whitaker

      David, I’m sure you speak for many in terms of this seeming a bit voyeuristic. Indeed it is very complicated. As a whole, I’d like to see the ‘sweeping under the rug’ stop as much as possible. Perhaps it’s my Catholic upbringing, but I don’t see avoidance as helping anyone, especially young people or those with psychological baggage coming to Buddhism for a fix. On the other hand, I don’t want a ‘witch-hunt’ or to give a megaphone to everyone who has ever been unhappy about a teacher. I understand that ‘what’s worth discussing’ will vary from person to person.

      From my own experience, I was glad to find the ‘FWBO Files’ (along with the rebuttals and news articles) when I was in my early 20s and considering committing to that group. It may have been a bit voyeuristic at the time, none of it having to do with my particular group in Montana, but I was grateful to get a little glimpse into the organization as a whole and to see that it wasn’t all just ‘love and light’. That, the whole Geshe Michael Roach saga, and seeing various other issues like this swept under the rug until a proverbial bombshell went off has led me to think that erring on the side of over-publicising rather than waiting and seeing might be beneficial.

  • John

    Justin,
    Thank you for this blog. I agree that the word scandal was probably not wise, and I understand why you might say, “it is very complicated,” but actually it’s not.
    Over about two years the following took place. Two women, who did not know each other at the time, tried to speak to Ken McLeod about damage done by what they felt were inappropriate intimacies when he was their teacher. He refused to speak to them. At some point the two women met and compared notes. Each tried to lodge a grievance with the Unfettered Mind Board regarding their treatment by McLeod. Siebert, the Board President, dismissed one complaint on McLeod’s word. Ivan, the other grievant, knew that. She also knew that the Siebert was a friend and advisor to McLeod at the time of her relationship with him. She asked for the names of other Board Members to contact. Siebert refused.
    Ivan finally asked An Olive Branch to get involved and the other grievant contacted them also. Unfettered Mind ignored An Olive Branch’s offer of help. Ivan published her blog and wrote to some people in the Buddhist community about it. Siebert then wrote those same people in secret and lied to them, telling them that Ivan was the only one complaining and that she never had any relationship of any kind with McLeod.
    Ivan finally found and wrote to the Board Secretary Robert Conrad, an attorney. She gave clear proof of Siebert’s lies. He ignored Siebert’s behavior entirely. Instead he attacked Ivan’s story, without having ever heard it and without reading all the correspondence between Ivan and McLeod. The Unfettered Mind Board hastily drew up a Grievance procedure entirely in its own control and gave the final word in that procedure to a litigation settlement firm across the street from the law offices of its Board Secretary.
    These are facts. They have never been denied, much less refuted. Not by Siebert, McLeod, the Unfettered Mind Board, or for that matter by anyone at all.
    Some may take McLeod’s silence throughout all this as noble. Others will have other opinions and will wonder why this matter needed to be handled with secrecy and lies. “Scandal” or not, anyone who has ever encountered self-protective institutions will recognize the underhanded maneuvers of this one, whose main function is to disseminate the discourses of a man who teaches “there is no enemy.”

  • John

    Justin,
    Thank you for this blog. I agree that the word scandal was probably not wise, and I understand why you might say, “it is very complicated,” but actually it’s not.

    Over about two years the following took place. Two women, who did not know each other at the time, tried to speak to Ken McLeod about damage done by what they felt were inappropriate intimacies when he was their teacher. He refused to speak to them. At some point the two women met and compared notes. Each tried to lodge a grievance with the Unfettered Mind Board regarding their treatment by McLeod. Siebert, the Board President, dismissed one complaint on McLeod’s word alone. Ivan, the other grievant, knew that. She also knew that the Siebert was a friend and advisor to McLeod at the time of her relationship with him. She asked for the names of other Board Members to contact. Siebert refused.

    Ivan finally asked An Olive Branch to get involved and the other grievant contacted them also. Unfettered Mind ignored An Olive Branch’s offer of help. Ivan published her blog and wrote to some people in the Buddhist community about it. Siebert then wrote those same people in secret and lied to them, telling them that Ivan was the only one complaining and that she never had any relationship of any kind with McLeod.
    Ivan finally found and wrote to the Board Secretary Robert Conrad, an attorney. She gave clear proof of Siebert’s lies. He ignored Siebert’s behavior entirely. Instead he attacked Ivan’s story, without having ever heard it and without reading all the correspondence between Ivan and McLeod. The Unfettered Mind Board hastily drew up a Grievance procedure entirely in its own control and gave the final word in that procedure to a litigation settlement firm across the street from the law offices of its Board Secretary.

    These are facts. They have never been denied, much less refuted. Not by Siebert, McLeod, the Unfettered Mind Board, or for that matter by anyone at all.

    Some may take McLeod’s silence throughout all this as noble. Others will have other opinions and will wonder why this matter needed to be handled with secrecy and lies. “Scandal” or not, anyone who has ever encountered self-protective institutions will recognize the underhanded maneuvers of this one, whose main function is to disseminate the discourses of a man who teaches “there is no enemy.”

  • http://www.naturalawareness.net/ George Draffan

    An open letter to Unfettered Mind and the Buddhist community

    I’ve studied Buddhism since the mid-1970s, training mainly in the Tibetan and Theravada traditions. From 1993 to 2007 I attended many retreats led by Ken McLeod, and in 2006-2009 participated in the Unfettered Mind teacher development program.

    I’m not naive or cynical, neither apologist nor disgruntled student. I’m a long-time participant of several Buddhist communities who is concerned about the current conflict in which Ken is accused of boundary violations. No matter what the facts turn out to be, Unfettered Mind should agree to engage in mediation with the support of an organization qualified to deal with boundary issues and conflicts between spiritual teachers and students, such as An Olive Branch or FaithTrust Institute. This should be undertaken not as legal defense or to protect reputation, but as ethical action to prevent harm in the community.

    For some time I’ve urged Ken and the Unfettered Mind board of directors to take this course. I’m now making a public statement because Unfettered Mind’s silence and the growing Internet rumors are both fueling further confusion without resolving conflict or preventing harm. I don’t advocate sweeping anything under the rug, but surely a mutual exploration with compassion for and by all concerned will be more effective than a scandal that feeds innuendo, rumor and confusion.

    I’m grateful for Ken’s translations and teachings, which have been of genuine benefit to many people. At the core of those teachings is the capacity and willingness to meet and work directly with whatever arises. When imbalances arise in relationships, they need to be acknowledged and brought back into balance. Ken and the board of Unfettered Mind should make a public statement, sincerely engage in mediation to resolve conflict and restore trust, and do whatever is necessary to prevent further confusion and harm.

    We each have an inherent, indestructible ability to know what is arising and to respond in ways that bring balance and peace. Whether we engage that ability makes all the difference.

    George Draffan
    August 29, 2012
    NaturalAwareness.net

  • John

    George,

    Thank you for your statement. I think you have clearly separated the issue of an appropriate grievance procedure from other issues of fact and opinion. I find that separation clarifying, and your support for a procedure which does not defend reputation, but tries instead to reduce harm and confusion, obviously good-hearted.

    I am struck, though, by your use of the term “Internet rumors.” If one searches that term on the net, it is mostly used to describe situations in which there is a fraudulent document or a misattributed quote posted online, in the hope that people will believe something that the poster knows is not true. If this is what you mean, I think it would be helpful to indicate where you see that happening. Otherwise, to me, it comes off as “innuendo” in its own right.

    You state that “Unfettered Mind’s silence and the growing Internet rumors are both fueling further confusion…” Perhaps. But it’s worth noting that the UM Board has been silent for over a year and half, while this Internet controversy elicited your eloquent, clarifying public statement in just a few weeks.

    Let’s hope the Board listens to you.

  • Pingback: From scandal-like to just plain ugly

  • Anonymous

    Why exactly do we need to read about this sordid business?

    People have relationships. They often end badly. “People” includes “Buddhist teachers.”

    Unless McLeod was engaging in the kind of molestation behavior that Eido Shimano was doing, this is simply the downfall of being adult human beings. Ivan may feel wronged (perhaps rightly, even) but this is like hearing about your aunt and uncle’s infidelities. It is embarrassing and, more to the point, without relevance to the rest of us. Why parade this around as some kind of show unless McLeod did something clearly unethical that is relevant to the rest of the community and his students?

    • Sheila

      Well put.

    • Justin Whitaker

      A lot has happened since this post and most of its comments. So I’ll just add my thanks to George Draffan for his letter here and more recently at Sweeping Zen. It is interesting that many teachers, students, and others have come out publicly supporting P. Ivan, while many anonymous or pseudonymous commenters attack her, this issue as a whole, or just want it all to go away. Sweeping Zen is one place where people willing to put their names and reputations on the line are coming out to demand a response and proper steps from Unfettered Mind. Unfettered Mind has mostly responded via a lawyer. You can read more here:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/americanbuddhist/2012/10/from-scandal-like-to-just-plain-ugly.html

    • Margaret

      Anonymous,
      You seem to be saying that in the absence of violent rape (I assume that’s what you mean by your repeated references to ‘Eido Shimano molestations’), no student has the right to complain of boundary violations by the teacher. You seem to be accusing P. Ivan of ‘parading’ her story around as ‘some kind of show’ when in fact as I read the information on her blog, she tried unavailingly for almost two years to get the situation resolved quietly, and only publicized the issue when she felt no other avenue was available to her. As for your qualifier, ‘unless McLeod did something clearly unethical that is relevant to the rest of the community and his students’… surely that is what the grievance procedure Ivan is asking for is meant to establish?

  • Pingback: The Existential Buddhist | dharma without dogma

  • Jason Simms

    I have recently been made aware of the accusations against Ken McCleod. I have known Ken for over 10 years and am very surprised by the accusations against him. During the time that I have known Ken, he has always acted with the highest ethical standard in any situation or relationship that I have been witness to. Whether Ms. Ivan’s claims of misconduct against Ken are true or not, I’m not sure. How I look at this whole situation is that until Ms. Ivan provides concrete evidence against Ken (which there doesnt’ seem to be any), all her actions seem to be a melicious attempt to ruin Ken’s reputation or possibly it’s just an attempt by her to get some needed attention. Ken has been a teacher for many years and had many opportunities to act inappropriately. There has not been any misconduct claims against him until now that I am aware of. Ms. Ivan, until you are ready to provide hard evidence against Ken, I would say shame on you for dragging his name through the mud, and I would also say shame on all the people that Ken has helped over the years for not sticking by him, until there is positive proof of his misconduct. Lastly, I don’t blame Ken or Unfettered Mind for not speaking out. Why should they have to defend their innocense if there is no evidence to the contrary?

    • Justin Whitaker

      (Posted on behalf of P. Ivan by the blogger)

      Dear Jason,

      Thank you so much for posting a comment. I think you speak out loud what many people think silently, so I very much appreciate the opportunity to respond to some of the concerns you express.

      Jason, you want “hard evidence” but you ignore the evidence already provided. You say, “There has not been any misconduct claims against [Ken McLeod] until now that I am aware of” while two grievants have in fact put forth two separate claims of misconduct. The other grievant posted a comment on my blog in which she states: “I am the other student. The experience I had with the way my grievance was handled was that Stephanie Siebert was the only person to receive the grievance. Ken then denied it and that was the end of it. From my understanding this is not a proper grievance procedure. Organizations such as The Olive Branch are available to assist… The way my grievance was handled presumed that Ken Mcleod was speaking “the whole truth” and as the person who lodged the grievance, I know he was not.” Both my and the other student’s grievance are known to Unfettered Mind and to An Olive Branch; we have been trying to get our grievances heard for over a year and a half.

      Jason, all this has been documented on my blog (http://patriciaivanconnections.blogspot.ca/) which is replete with other hard evidence. If you read it, you will find quotes from Ken McLeod’s emails to me and my ex-husband in which he admits to deception and shame and violations of his own ethical principles. You will also find not just hard evidence but proof that Stephanie Siebert lied about the very existence of my relationship with Ken in an attempt at damage control as President of Unfettered Mind. Elsewhere (http://sweepingzen.com/fed-ex-letter-from-ken-mcleods-attorney) you will find the declaration of one of Ken’s longtime students and colleagues, George Draffan, who says that “Ken acknowledged that emotional entanglement and physical intimacies had occurred [with P. Ivan], and he acknowledged it in a conference call attended by Unfettered Mind board member Robert Conrad, myself, and others (May 21, 2012)” and that “Ken struggled to find an ethical and effective response, but he and the Unfettered Mind board have instead offered public silence and private threats, which have further confused the community and multiplied the harm.”

      Jason, if you still need more evidence, I would invite you to contact someone who knows the facts first hand. I can’t speak for Mr. Draffan, but you are most welcome to contact me any time.

      My email is patricia.i.ivanATgmail.com

  • Elleblue Jones

    People who have relationships where there is a power disparity are in a very different category of responsibility. And the reason for reading about the sordid business is that so teachers will be held responsible for all their behaviours and that vulnerable students will not experience being victimized by said teachers. This kind of relationship happens across religious traditions and needs to be acknowledged and dealt with within the Buddhist tradition. After all we are supposed to live compassion for all sentient beings, are we not?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X