The emergency management Team at UCLA normally convenes to deal with earthquakes. But at 10 a.m. on September 11 it met to handle an entirely different emergency. Though the campus of 60,000 people appeared to be in no physical danger after the East Coast attacks, the team of top administrators declared a "policy crisis" requiring a rapid response. "We agreed that it was important to connect the event with what we do here every day--which is teach and learn," recalls Brian Copenhaver, provost of UCLA's College of Letters and Science. Within the week an e-mail titled "Urgent Call to Action" had gone out to all 3,200 faculty members, seeking volunteers to design and teach a series of one-unit, pass/fail seminars related to the events of September 11--without pay.
By the time the fall quarter began two weeks later, UCLA had come up with 50 (yes, 50) new courses taught by some of the marquee names on campus. Chancellor Albert Carnasale signed on to teach "National Security in the 21st Century." Copenhaver offered a course exploring the use of terror in Machiavelli's "The Prince." Allan Tobin, director of the UCLA Brain Research Institute, teamed up with his wife, English professor Janet Hadda, to look at the neuro-biological effects of terror on creativity.
Instead of hitting the streets with antiwar demonstrations, undergrads are hitting the books. Demand for courses in Arabic and Iranian studies is way up, and the series of 50 seminars, called "Perspectives on September 11," is almost completely full. That may be because the weekly, one-hour classes are part academic inquiry, part group therapy. Unlike most courses at UCLA, where enrollment is large and professors are distant, the new seminars are limited to 15 students to encourage discussion. Like many students, political-science major Grant Rabenn reacted to the September attacks was fear. "In most classes there is hardly any interaction," Rabenn says. "Here you just go and let out what's inside you."
Jordan Richmond, a music major, is enrolled in three September 11 seminars. On the first day of history professor Vinay Lal's analytic class on terrorism, Richmond recalled finding a Web site by 10:30 a.m. on September 11 that had already posted a WTC obit--noting both the date of the towers' completion and the date of their destruction. Seeing that cybertombstone, "I almost cried," he says. "The event was already contextualized. That blew my mind." The seminars, believes Richmond, have sent him on a journey to learn what he should have already known.