December 20, 2001

Teach-In Evokes Past, Future of Activism

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Five hundred Cornell community members gathered in Kennedy Hall auditorium on Sept. 17 for “A University Teach-in.”

Six faculty panelists gave short speeches on topics relating to the events of Sept. 11. An open microphone period followed, in which members of the 500-person audience shared their comments and asked questions of the panelists.

“The major intent is to try to shed light on these events” and have experts inform the communty, said President Hunter R. Rawlings III.

“Our sense of loss is very real, because it is the passing of American invincibility,” said Prof. Theodore J. Lowi, government.

“Any response we make now should be careful and targeted,” said Prof. Rose McDermott, government, noting the need for “clear and convincing evidence about who was actually responsible for these terrible events” before responding.

Prof. Michelle Moody-Adams, philosophy, said, “We’re going to have to find ways to constantly renegotiate our relationship with the rest of the world as a consequence of this new complexity. Vengeance is not the answer here.”

Prof. Muna Ndulo, law, spoke on the international legal aspects of both a U.S. and international response to the terrorist acts.

“There cannot be any doubt that the U.S. has suffered a terrorist attack, which entitles it to the use of self-defense,” Ndulo said, noting that “the response must be proportionate.”

Prof. Henry Shue, philosophy, criticized U.S. officials for their inflammatory rhetoric.

“These indiscriminate threats are irresponsible not only because they’re empty … but because they pave the way for indiscriminate killing on our part,” Shue said, citing the economic sanctions which hurt “ordinary Muslims.”

The final speaker, Asst. Prof. Shawkat Toorawa, near eastern studies, said “The terrorists did not just hijack four planes; they hijacked one billion Muslims. And there have been incidents in the wake of this.”

However, he said, “I have to say that Cornell University has been exemplary.”

During the question period, Fariba Yassaee ’02 stood up and encouraged her peers to ask her about her religion. “My Islamic God is completely different from [Osama Bin Laden’s],” she said.

“The solution to terrorism has to be multinational,” said Ndulo, a native of Zambia.

Response to the teach-in was very positive.

“The youth of the country have generally shown apathy, but here they’re coming together, around a common, more nationalistic goal,” said Nick Linder ’05.

Isaac Kramnick, the vice provost for undergraduate education and organizer of the teach-in, said, “This is what a University is about.”

Archived article by Heather Schroeder