Students clamour for courses

September 6, 2002

As September 11 approaches, THES writers look at research in the US and UK in the wake of the attacks and US academia's fight to present a balanced view.

US sharpens judgement

This autumn, two dozen undergraduates at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, will learn how to poison water supplies, create smallpox viruses and make other diseases more deadly.

The idea behind the bioterrorism class is to teach the scientific, public policy and moral issues involved in terrorism, according to the professor who devised it, John Palisano.

"It is really important for Americans to become more scientifically literate so that they can judge whether public policy decisions made about bioterrorism issues are correct or not," Palisano says.

Since September 11, campuses have added courses in everything from Arabic to bioterrorism. Most report a huge surge in student interest in such topics, with long waiting lists.

"If you don't understand the problems, then you can't make informed decisions about the costs and benefits of proposed solutions," Palisano says.

At Georgia State University, enrolment in religious studies courses is up by more than 80 per cent on last year, according to Tim Renick, the director of the programme.

Several courses have been added, including Islamic fundamentalism and war, peace and religion. The university has also added Arabic to its curriculum. And the number of students signing up for a class in corporate risk management has doubled.

Some professors at Georgia State have changed the content of existing classes, allowing for discussion of the impact of September 11. In the law school, two courses were added, one on national security law and another on public health law.

The number of students who enrolled in a course at Northeastern University on the Arab-Israeli conflict nearly doubled, and had to be cut off simply because there were no more seats in the classroom. The university, in Boston, has also added Arabic for the first time.

The Rochester Institute of Technology in western New York State now offers a course examining the history and patterns of terrorism, including specific terrorist incidents and how they were handled by local and federal organisations and the media.

It has added programmes in emergency operations, emergency preparedness and "man-made hazards".

Visa checks thin classes

When Babson College opened this month, some students were missing - namely males from predominantly Muslim countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Kuwait and Jordan.

They were among thousands of students delayed or even blocked from entering the US because of visa rules, in place since September.

Babson has about 500 students from abroad - about 20 per cent of its undergraduate enrolment. Many have faced checks by the State Department, which is paying particular attention to male applicants aged 16 to 45 from Muslim countries.

The visa process for international student applicants has stretched from less than three to ten weeks.

Applicants for student visas who want to study in "sensitive" fields - including nuclear science - are undergoing even greater review.

US universities and colleges are now required to track international students once they are in the US through a database that is expected to be operational by January.

Other THES "Aftermath of 9/11" stories

Looking forward, and back from 9/11

Liberal minds not welcome

What if nothing at all has changed?

Tragedy grapples with gap between human meaningfulness and despair

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