September 17, 2001 Geneva, NY – When a national crisis occurs and there are nearly 2,000 18-22 year-olds on a college campus, administrators and faculty members on that campus must quickly mobilize to support the students and each other. Hobart and William Smith Colleges did just that last week when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked.
One of the first things to be done was to ensure that all students studying in New York City were accounted for, and to report their safety to the others in the community. The Off-Campus Programs Office was able to quickly learn that all our students were safe.
Another item on the list was to make sure that communications were open between campus and off-campus so that students could contact their families and friends off campus, especially in the New York and D.C. areas. Phone banks were quickly established in Tuesday so that students could call out and take calls, and three fax lines were dedicated to this mission so that families and friends could fax messages to campus.
Televisions were also brought into classrooms and lounges and lounges were opened late into the night so that students could stay on top of the ongoing news coverage, and computer labs were also open day and night so that e-mail messages could be sent and received without restriction. The Colleges' radio station and NPR affiliate, WEOS, broadcast live all day, offering NPR and other public radio news programming.
The campus counseling center was open all day, immediately, to students who might need assistance. In the evening, students were invited to gather on campus to meet with counselors, who managed small group and individual sessions. Chaplain Lesley Adams and President Gearan met with students, staff, and faculty in front of the student center at noon on Tuesday to share their shock and grief.
For those needing a more formal form of solace, a candlelight service was held at 10:15 p.m. Tuesday night in the Chapel.
President Gearan wrote an open letter to the community on Wednesday, which was posted on the internal web newsletter all read regularly. He spoke about the test we all now face, and our need to not only keep a dialogue going but to also take advantage of resources on and off campus. Gearan was also tapped by local media for his expertise in the area of national crisis management (as former communications director for President Clinton and former director of Peace Corps) and made himself available whenever possible to talk to reporters. Gearan as not the only community member to enter the larger conversation however. Professor Michael Dobkowski, of the religious studies department who has some expertise in the area of terrorism, wrote a thought-provoking op ed piece that the Rochester newspaper ran on Wednesday morning and he also spoke on live Rochester radio that morning. Dobkowski was also quoted as an expert in other pieces about the terrorist attack, as were other faculty members over the next couple of days.
Administrative services on campus worked to coordinate a shuttle service to a nearby town so that students could give blood. And the decision was made that all sports contests for Friday would be postponed until the weekend, and then a moment of silence was observed.
By Wednesday the students were mobilized as well. They set up tables in the student center to collect money for the Red Cross and congregated to make white ribbons for others to wear in solidarity of the suffering in New York and Washington, D.C. They were also calling upon each other to donate time at the Red Cross and at other locations that might need extra support.
The Chaplain organized and led a peace and healing circle on the Quad at noon on Thursday, which was attended by more than 600 students, faculty members and staff members. Prayers were offered in five religions – Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Moslem, and Buddhist. At 7 p.m. that evening 12 faculty members came together to discuss “How the World Has Changed,” a discussion moderated by President Gearan. Students filled Albright Auditorium for the event, which was simulcast on the Colleges' NPR affiliate. On Thursday the Web addresses of government representatives were posted for students and other community members to write to their legislators.
At noon on Friday, in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance declared by President Bush, the chapel bells were rung and the chapel was open for quiet reflection. Faculty members continued their discussion of events at the regularly held “Friday Faculty Lunch,” where the regular program was postponed for the discussion. And at 7 in the evening candles were made available on the steps of the Quad for those who wanted to participate in the informal national candle lighting moment urged through e-mail across the country.
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Michael Dobkowski, professor of religious studies, wrote an op ed titled “Terrorism Requires Careful, Measured Response by U.S.” that can be read in Wednesday's Democrat & Chronicle. In the piece, Dobkowski calls for a careful, measured response from the U.S. to the recent terrorism. He is also quoted in an article on page 2B. On Wednesday, Dobkowski spoke to Tony and Dee on Rochester's WRRM radio station, where he echoed his message of outrage and sadness but called for the nation to use reason.
President Gearan was interviewed by the Canandaigua Messenger about his trip yesterday morning to New York City. Gearan also shared his experiences with other acts of terrorism, which he handled while working for President Bill Clinton and as the Director of the Peace Corps. The Messenger story The Finger Lakes Times talked with several students who attended yesterday's vigil. the Finger Lakes Times story
(September 12, 2001)
The events of the past 24 hours and the incalculable horror in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, leave all of us with feelings of sorrow and confusion. Our sympathies go to the families and loved ones of those who have died or those who have been touched by this tragedy.
The Colleges also face a test in the days ahead. How we come together and affirm our community – in the midst of this senseless attack – is important for all of us to reflect upon in the days ahead. Tuesday's noon gathering at Scandling Center, the support group session in Albright Auditorium, and the candlelight vigil in the Chapel last night have been important ways for all of us to find support. The white ribbons, blood drive and fundraising effort – all student initiated and organized – say a great deal about the character and integrity of our campus. The Provost has issued a statement on maintaining our academic schedule while meeting the emotional needs of our students, and utilizing class times to discuss events.
I believe it is important that we continue this dialogue – both to remember those who have suffered and, working with our faculty, to try to make some sense of this extraordinary time. We have a unique opportunity at Hobart and William Smith Colleges to model an exploration of the issues involved in an environment that values our diversity as a society and prizes justice and tolerance for difference.
I urge everyone to take advantage of the resources of this community: from the counseling center to faculty, staff, coaches and others who are there for you. To be sure, there are no easy answers to make sense of the madness of this week – but together, as a community, we can be there for one another and utilize the precious gift of this caring and dynamic environment.