Around Tappan Square

Teaching About Terrorism

As we all struggle to make sense of the events of September 11, the College is helping students to understand the related international climate.

In November the College Faculty Council approved a new faculty slot dedicated to Middle East and North Africa (MENA) studies. Courses will be interdisciplinary, providing broad coverage of the historical, cultural, political, and social trends in the region.

Oberlin already offers courses in Islam and Sufism, but proponents say that specific attention to the Middle East would better prepare students to be informed citizens “who need to approach this important region with education and thoughtfulness.”

English professor T. Scott McMillin is organizing a Winter Term Interdisciplinary Institute, which will offer on-campus faculty lectures and discussions that focus on life post-September 11. He’s hoping that the program will help students deal with the “gravity and scope” of the attacks while encouraging more on-campus intellectual activity during Winter Term. The institute, he says, will help the College maintain its strong and educational response to current events.

Oberlin has also witnessed several peer-led activities since September 11. Two hundred students joined the 20,000-member peace rally in DC in late September, and a student-organized “teach-in/walk-out” day in October offered lectures and forums on political, historical, and religious issues. Faculty members, including politics professor Harlan Wilson and ethnomusicology professor Roderick Knight, spoke on topics ranging from civil liberties to the music of Afghanistan, and students facilitated discussions on war and gender roles.

“I found that it was more important to educate myself about this war and its implications for everyone in the world than to follow my daily routine,” sophomore Wendy Jackson said.

“The opportunity to discuss pertinent war-related issues doesn’t happen every day,” senior Bill Lascher said. “It is necessary for everyone to approach this unique political situation from a number of angles to derive a comfortable, well-informed, and level-headed perspective. I’m not going to let America act out against Afghanistan using my name, and in turn act out against the very principals that it claims to protect.”

— Andi Cumbo

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