Subject: Disbanding the Tribe
The fall of 2012 was one of our darkest semesters. Honduras had a political coup earlier that August. Later that October, Honduras was placed on the US Travel Warning List. In turn, the university suspended our travel funding and forbade me from traveling to Honduras. And, on top of it all, there was a move in my department to kill La Ceiba as a class.
How did that cohort respond?
They fought back. They self-organized. And, a small group of them arrived in Honduras on their own to get to work. They could not imagine their existence without going to Honduras.
And, that’s the year that we stopped referring to ourselves as a class and called ourselves a Tribe. We had three bonfires that year. “We will hug” became one of our 11 Promises. We could not imagine a day without seeing each other.
We inspired each other. We pushed each other. We made each other better.
Only two students in that cohort had been to Honduras before. Neither of them was fluent in Spanish. But, they had a tenacious commitment to the client. The client came first. This principle was fiercely imprinted upon them by earlier cohorts. Regardless of the thousands of miles that separated them from our clients, this cohort like those before them and those after them got to work.
This semester’s cohort has fallen woefully short.
Yes, there were moments of inspiration. And, yes, there were individuals who produced good work, great work even. But, this was the exception and not the rule.
In this cohort, it was acceptable to:
· Miss class
· Show up late
· Cherry-pick which assignments and exercises to do
· Scroll through your phones during class discussion
· Disregard the readings that form the foundation of our culture
· Do another class’s work on our work days
· Sit back and let others carry the discussions (which were few and far between)
Now, not everyone is guilty of all of these things. Some of you may not be guilty of any of these things.
Regardless, these behaviors are inconsistent with our legacy.
Overall, this cohort was marked by a passionless mediocrity that has hurt our clients, artisans and La Ceiba as a whole.
So, I am disbanding this cohort.
What does this mean for you?
· If you are a graduating senior (does not matter if it’s your first year or second year in La Ceiba) and you want a La Ceiba bracelet, an opportunity to leave your mark in the “Vulnerability” book, and membership in a community of kickass alumni, you are going to have to regain our trust. I am rebuilding this spring. I am rebuilding from scratch. And, the next cohort cannot be infected by this cohort’s passionless mediocrity.
· If you are a junior and you wish to remain a part of La Ceiba, then you will need to re-apply this spring. You will not be given any preferential treatment. What you were part of this past semester is not how we work. It is not who we are. And, it must never be allowed to happen again.
At this moment, this semester’s La Ceiba cohort ceases to exist.
Yes, in the short-run, La Ceiba will be hurt by your absence: CCC calls will not be made, products will not be sold, and program development will be put on hold. However, there’s nothing more dangerous to the long-term vitality of an organization that’s accustomed to creating art than the appearance and spread of passionless mediocrity.
So, as an individual what are you to make of this email?
First, you need to know that I care about you, your future, and your well-being. I also believe in your ability to do great things, inspire others, and make a difference. I know that this email is going to sting. And, I am I sorry. But, this cohort fell into a pattern of behavior that was inconsistent with La Ceiba’s culture and the unlocking of your human potential. I need you to know that (especially with respect to the latter).
Second, each of you had a unique journey through the fall semester. For you, it may not be best characterized as “passionless mediocrity”. I am willing to honor that journey in a conversation. You let me know if you would like to have it. I am ready when you are. But, passionless mediocrity was the collective outcome of this past semester.
Third, the path back to La Ceiba (if you choose to take it) begins with that conversation. I need you to reflect deeply and honestly on the past semester and your role in creating this collective outcome.
· What could you have done differently?
· Why didn’t you do it?
Through La Ceiba, we get a glimpse of the magnificent potential within ourselves; but, only if we’re committed to the overwhelmingly difficult task of taking on our inner fears. Committing oneself to this course of action is not natural. It is learned. The returning members of La Ceiba nurture it in each other and instruct the newest cohort of students by:
- Transmitting our culture of commitment to the newest cohort
- Modeling a set of behaviors consistent with our culture
- Integrating the newest cohort into a community that holds one another accountable to its commitments
Somehow we fell short in all of these areas. And, I know of no other way of setting things right other than taking the unprecedented step of disbanding this cohort.
We need to begin again.
I invite you to join me again.
But, you will need to leave behind who you were last semester.
You are each incredible human beings. You have become an important part of my life. I wish nothing but the best for you. So, go enjoy your break. And, when you have taken time to answer the questions above, I am available via phone, email, or skype.
Thanks. – dr H