Eleanor Liu's Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Ms. Fisher and Castilleja Board of Trustees,

      As a Castilleja alumna, I am concerned and deeply saddened to hear that Bear Capron has suddenly disappeared from the campus. I am writing to you, as well as to Ms. Lonergan and Mr. Blair, to voice my wholehearted support for Bear and to urge the school to live up to its duty to him and to the community. Bear was central to all of my seven years at Castilleja. An inventive, creative and inspiring teacher, he comforted us regularly and made us laugh every day. We learned by his example to fight for what we believed in and to bear grief with strength and grace. In his plays, I learned to be truly present and honest throughout both mind and body, and to present that deepened consciousness through each word and action on the stage. I carried Mr. Capron's lessons with me beyond the Circle to my theatrical work at Yale; now, as an English and creative writing teacher, I know I am partly indebted to Mr. Capron for my ability to bring passion and creative energy to my own classroom. During my time at Castilleja, I began to find myself; Bear was an important and beloved figure in that discovery. When I visited campus two years ago to attend the Opening Day ceremony, it was the sound of Bear's sweet and booming voice singing "Growing wild upon the hillside..." that brought tears to my eyes. The fact that he has apparently been torn from campus—from his students and from his work—is both a tragedy and an outrage.

      While I cannot know the full circumstances surrounding Bear's departure, the lack of explanation or even acknowledgement on the part of the administration has raised strong doubts—in the minds of current students as well as alumnae and parents—as to whether or not the school is acting justly. I wholeheartedly doubt that this secrecy is Bear's choice. Instead, it seems that the administration will neither grant him the right to speak nor come forward openly to provide their own account of what has happened. Although I understand that there may be a legal reason for withholding certain information, the administration's complete silence presents a face of indifference to the rest of the community. This is a frightening image, both in the lack of courtesy and fairness in the school's conduct towards an employee and in the total absence of transparency in communicating with students, parents and alumnae. That Mr. Capron is a beloved veteran teacher only makes the situation more difficult to believe.

      I fervently hope that the recent events are only a brief, though grave, mistake. I look forward to Bear Capron's immediate return to campus with a full apology from the administration and a clear explanation for his absence. The Castilleja community, near and far from campus, has come together to support Mr. Capron and to do all we can for him; I know that we will come together with even greater spirit to welcome him back to campus and celebrate a school that will be whole again when he returns.

Sincerely,
Eleanor Liu
Class of 2004

Eleanor Liu's Second Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Ms. Fisher and Castilleja Board of Trustees,

      I am writing a second letter in support of Bear Capron because I would like to address specifically the apparent reason for his dismissal. Bear has not discussed his conversations with the administration or the reasons for his absence. However, the community at large believes that he was fired in connection to the screening of a short film, "Cashback" (2004), which made one student uncomfortable and which was deemed inappropriate because it contained female nudity (though no sex scenes). "Cashback" won numerous prizes and was nominated for an Academy Award in the shorts section.

      If Mr. Capron's dismissal was connected to this film, I am deeply concerned about Castilleja's priorities. If the film made a student uncomfortable, the case is not new: we watched many upsetting films in history classes, but their educational value clearly outweighed any emotional distress. Furthermore, individual students can always resolve these situations with their teachers. Did the administration somehow consider the film so inappropriate—despite its critical acclaim—that they had doubts about Bear's character? Surely his twenty-year record at Castilleja, and the glowing words and fierce loyalty of his students throughout those years, have greater weight than the screening of one movie.

      Most importantly, it is startling to me that Castilleja would consider its students so fragile and innocent that they would need such a strict—and brutal—shield from sexual images. (The traditional screening of classic movies like Europa, Europa suggests that this is not a general policy, and I do not want to see it become one.) Surely Castilleja women are capable of seeing beyond any suggestive content, of recognizing the artistic and educational point being made, of discussing the material intellectually. This should be all the more obvious when the film in question is of recognized artistic value. If Castilleja students are taught that images that embarrass them cannot be looked at for art's sake, they will be ill prepared to decide on their own terms what merits, flaws and messages the work contains—and thus ill prepared for college and for the rest of life beyond the Circle.

      Castilleja pledges to instill in its young women the intellectual and moral honesty to find and speak truth. I cannot see how dismissing a valued, excellent teacher without providing clear and just cause is consistent with this mission. Castilleja is sending an unambiguous message about what kind of person the school values—and, by extension, what kind of people its students should aspire to be. Are we to understand that the women Castilleja hopes to shape are not women who pour heart and soul into their jobs; not women of compassion and incredible creative spark; not women who inspire others to fight for what they believe in—but women who worry more about propriety than about intellectual growth? Women who play it safe?

      I hope with all my heart that Castilleja will firmly refuse to send such a message.

Sincerely,
Eleanor Liu
Class of 2004

If you would like to post a letter, send it to [email protected].


This website is not affiliated with or endorsed by Bear Capron.