U Students, staff discuss worries at Cowles Auditorium

About 100 University staff and students from several humanities departments met at the Cowles Auditorium to discuss Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.

John Brandl, dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, moderated the discussion where students and faculty voiced their concerns about the attacks’ political and social ramifications.

Assumptions surrounding the attackers and the blaming of any race, country or government took up a great deal of the hour-long meeting.

“The illusion of an all-knowing government is just that: an illusion,” said Emily Heitzman, a global studies senior.

But many said some of these speculations were possible.

“The assumption that it has to do with the Middle East situation may be correct,” said Jeff Broadbent, assistant professor in the sociology department, referencing the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Students and faculty were concerned about comparing this attack to Pearl Harbor.

“The infatuation and romanticizing of World War II is very dangerous,” warned David Good, a professor in the history department.

Kirsten Fischer, also a history professor, trembled as she spoke of her worries that the response to this tragedy would be a war.

Eva Van Dassow, a professor in classical and Near Eastern studies, said better political relations would benefit the United States more than a military build-up.

“We, the United States, have made a lot of enemies. A lot of people hate us. No missile defense shield can protect us (from that),” Dassow said.

Many noted the difficulty of stopping suicide terrorists.

Much of the conversation was devoted to media portrayal of the event.

“We’re going to be subjected to so many common forms of commentary by institutions of the media, and you need to distance yourself and contextualize what you see in the media,” said history professor Thomas Wolfe.

“This is going to affect all of us as American citizens in a personal way,” said Lee Munnich, an instructor at the Humphrey center, about the intense fear of U.S. citizens.

As moderator Brandl said he felt good about the discussion. “There were lovely comments made here about seeing all of humanity as a community, wanting to be of assistance to one another,” he said.

– Tim Sturrock contributed to this report.

Robyn Repya welcomes comments at [email protected]