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Attacks spark discussion about changing course

For students and professors, classes haven’t been the same since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In many classes, the attacks have opened new avenues for discussion and debate.

Paul Schneider, a professor in the department of religious studies, said the curriculum for his world religions course has changed since the attack.

“Normally, I put Islam at the end of the course … (since) it is chronologically the youngest of Western religions,” he said. “(This semester) I did Islam immediately after the event.”

Schneider said students have asked him questions about the nature of the Islamic religion. He said students have asked why some people in the world hate the United States.

“My student response is that they made a distinction between Islam and terrorists,” he said. “Islam basically preaches peace and tolerance.”

Schneider said student interest in the Islamic faith has grown since the attacks.

“There was an overriding interest,” Schneider said. “I think the students were more in shock mode at the time.”

Schneider said with increasing interest, the possibility exists that there may be a new course concerning the subject of terrorism and how it relates to religion.

“What might take place is that we might have a course dealing with fundamentalism in world religions,” he said. “That would be a possibility.”

While the possibility of such a course exists, Schneider said no one in his department has talked to him about the idea.

“I don’t know of anybody discussing in my department as to doing that,” Schneider said.

Danny Jorgensen, who is chairman for the department of religious studies, said he has heard discussion among some faculty about a new class or new professors in the department.

“We’ve certainly talked about that in the faculty,” Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen said one of his main concerns is hiring a professor who is an expert on the Islamic faith. While the department teaches courses on Islam, and other courses where Islam is part of the curriculum, Jorgensen said there is no professor that specializes on the subject.

“The position in Islam is sitting there vacant, and we would love to fill that position,” he said.

Jorgensen, like Schneider, said he has been using current events in the classes he teaches.

“One of the things you try to do in the classroom is you use examples,” he said.

Jorgensen said in addition to an Islam specialist, the department has talked about new classes. He said there are suggestions in the department about the subject matter for the new class, but a response may be slow in coming.

“We are locked into the spring schedule already,” Jorgensen said. “The earliest time we can respond would be next fall’s term.”

Jorgensen said the slow response is the product of USF being a big university run by a bureaucracy.

“It’s very hard to do innovative things in a short period of time,” he said.

Mark Amen, associate dean for the college of arts and sciences, in which the department of religious studies operates, said he would not know if individual departments plan to use their budgets for new classes.

“We have not been approached by any departments asking for additional funding,” he said.

Amen said in his job, he deals primarily with students. He said he’s gotten several responses from students, including concerns about how it will affect their careers, and a minimal concern about personal safety.

Amen said, however, he has had no specific responses from students about a change in curriculum.

“There have been a wide range of reactions towards the events but no real pattern,” he said. “I have not gotten any request from students coming to my office asking for more courses.”

Amen said the dean’s office does not try to control whether faculty members address the tragedy in the classroom.

“The faculty really know when issues are pertinent towards their course issues,” he said.

  • Contact Rob Brannonat