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Soka University Urged to Learn a Lesson From Disney

November 08, 1994

Disney's recent decision not to build a theme park next to the Civil War battleground of Manassas is a lesson that Soka (University) should take to heart.

Disney was finally persuaded that its project simply didn't belong at that location. No one claimed that Disney was not entitled to build a theme park--just that it shouldn't be built at that specific site. Disney has not abandoned the project but will relocate it.

Soka's plan to build a college campus at Gillette Ranch is a perfect analogue to Disney's plan to build at Manassas. Soka's campus doesn't belong at Gillette Ranch, for a host of environmental, traffic and growth-inducing reasons. Soka is entitled to build a campus, but not at that specific site.

A clear distinction must be made between Soka the institution (like Disney the institution) and the question of whether its project is good or bad. Just as we can admire Disney but deplore its Manassas project, we can also respect Soka but deplore its Gillette project.

Soka would have us believe that attacking its project is an attack on Soka itself. But just as the Manassas project is only one part of the Disney enterprise, the Gillette project is only one part of the Soka enterprise. Soka's main campus is in Japan, with satellite branches in other countries.

Like Disney, Soka is immensely wealthy; it can afford to buy any parcel of land it wants, wherever it wants. It is a great tragedy that Soka chose--like Disney--to try to develop land that cries out to be left undisturbed.

Unlike Disney, which realized that it made a mistake, Soka has not yet seen the light. Perhaps Soka will learn from Disney and abandon its plans for Gillette Ranch. When Soka finds a non-controversial site to build its campus on, I'll be the first to cheer them on for their wisdom and good sense.

LESLIE HARDIE

Calabasas

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