Lawrence alumni and students have responded with overwhelming support and concern for their fellow Lawrentians after the terrorist attacks of two weeks ago, according to Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell.To the best or her knowledge, Truesdell says no Lawrence student or alumnus died on September 11, “although there were a fair number of stories about near misses and close calls.”
“The first reaction from the institution was one of being able to ensure safety of our larger family,” Truesdell said. “On Tuesday, Wednesday, and even through the weekend, we made phone calls to students and families in New York and Washington, as well as surrounding states, to make sure they were okay.”
Faculty and students who were on campus Sept. 14 participated in the national day of prayer by pausing in silence at noon.
“The bell in Main Hall was rung, flags were lowered, the president said a few words on the steps of Main Hall, and everyone was asked to pause in their day,” said Truesdell.
That evening, a group of students organized a candlelight vigil in the quad, with a few hundred people joining them.
Truesdell has received many calls and e-mails of condolences from international students and their families since the attacks. No international student has contacted the administration voicing fears about how he or she will be treated on campus.
“I’ve been in a couple gatherings,” she said, “where President Warch has made specific mention of the outpouring from friends of ours, from other countries. .Some of the e-mails have indicated they are very glad that their sons and daughters are here or were going to attend Lawrence here because they know this is a place that would understand difference.”
Shortly after the attacks, the public affairs office set up an alumni tree on Lawrence’s website, allowing alumni to notify others of their safety and inquire about people from whom they’ve not heard. The website also provides links to relevant counseling information.
If the United States engages in a war, a prospect that is becoming more likely, the faculty and administration would react in the only way they know how: as educators.
“I imagine we would do what we do best, which is to be educators. That’s the business that we know around here,” Truesdell said.
Several events were already planned for first week in response to the tragedy. President Warch’s convocation speech on Thursday addressed the national crisis, a Thursday evening panel of professors and students met in Riverview, and a Sunday concert at 3 p.m. in the chapel will donate all proceeds to disaster relief efforts. Religious studies professor Katheryn Kueny will give a lecture on Islam on Tuesday during convocation hour in Stansbury Theatre.
Truesdell said she expects more events to be organized as the year progresses, but added, “The Red Cross has asked that we put off [blood drives], that we plan that for the future.” Blood banks on the east coast have been “inundated, and what they said they really need is financial contributions.”
She continued by saying that President Warch has suggested that Union Station look at its inventory and donate clothing items, but relief agencies in New York and Washington are not accepting such items right now.
Truesdell said she wouldn’t be surprised to see more candlelight vigils or gatherings on campus since, she said, “People seem to crave togetherness.”
Tightened national security
Andrew Law, director of international and off-campus programs, said nearly all Lawrence programs are continuing as planned, despite increasing vigilance. Other colleges and universities have not experienced as much continuity.
Off-campus programs at other institutions, in the Middle East, North Africa, and perhaps Southeast Asia, are likely to be cancelled for some time, he said.
“In general people are running on what I would call a tentative status quo,” he said, “meaning that the organizations are paying more close attention than they normally would to State Department reports.” All Lawrence study abroad programs are continuing to run as normal, Law said.
Since the attacks, numerous reports of abuse toward Arab-Americans have circulated in the media, but Truesdell said she has not heard of similar incidents in the Appleton area.
Truesdell encourages students to seek help if harassed because of nationality, religion, or skin color. Lawrence’s judicial procedures provide outlets for students who are intimidated by other students, an offense banned by the university’s disruptive conduct policy.
Director of international studies Scott Fuller said that a few international students underwent unusual scrutiny as they tried to get to campus. He said one student with dark skin had to get off his flight and was interrogated by the FBI for 45 minutes, while another had his bags searched as he boarded a bus.
Fuller said students he has talked with didn’t seem to mind the extra security. “I think they understand it,” he said.
The extra security affected the first week on campus for several international students, though. Fuller expected 53 students by the first day of orientation, but only 35 made it. Many of the absent students chose to take buses or cars rather than fly. In an extreme case, one student from France decided to stay at home rather than fly to America and spend a year at Lawrence.
“Frankly, we don’t know where this situation is going to lead in terms of the country,” Fuller said, adding “we do know that our stance will remain the same. Students are judged on their personal conduct here, not on where they’re from.