Leader: Academia must provide balance in face of terror

September 14, 2001

Faced with the horror of this week's events in the United States, what contribution can the academic world make?

First, counter the temptation to rush to judgement. In such crises the media, and through them the public, turn to the experts - people who have deep knowledge of political, economic, religious, geographical, social, even engineering issues. Universities, with their research tradition, are society's databank. They can also help, despite the pain and horror, take a long and relatively objective view and provide a forum where discussion can be conducted with a degree of balance.

Second, universities provide top-level education and training. This appalling massacre will, as was probably intended, leave gaping holes in America's intellectual infrastructure. There will be a need both for quick action and for long-term provision to ensure that the loss of expertise is replaced as quickly and as effectively as possible.

Third, there will be a new agenda. It will not be immediately evident how this attack will impact on attitudes to, for example, global capitalism, fundamentalist religion and political isolationism. But as the days and weeks pass there will be major shifts. It will be a dangerous time. New ideas and new ways of looking at old issues will be needed if an act of extraordinary barbarism is not to breed worse intolerance.

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