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October 1, 2001

Faculty lend voices to help public understand tragedies

By Nancy Seideman


In the days following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, an Emory political scientist who had done nearly two dozen media interviews was feeling rather burned out when he stopped at his neighborhood convenience store one evening.

The store owner, whom he knew from years of shopping there, pulled him aside. “I am Muslim,” the owner said. “My congregation and I want to thank you for what you have been saying on television.”

Suddenly, all those hours of interviews seemed worthwhile.

Dozens of Emory faculty have participated in local, national and international print and broadcast interviews since Sept. 11, providing quotes for newspapers and wire services, comprehensive backgrounders for reporters, traveling to studios for live, on-camera interviews, and writing op-eds for local and national publications. The list of faculty across the University who have appeared in news reports grows daily as the country continues to grapple with the multiple and complex issues that have arisen from the national tragedies.

The topics may be diverse, but the reasons for such active participation is not. “It’s the sense of duty to give back,” said Gordon Newby, director of the Institute for Comparative and International Studies and professor of Middle Eastern studies.

Law professor Abdullahi An-Na’im concurred. “Educating the community is one element that is integral to the role of a university in the community,” he said. “The resources of a university should be fully accessible, especially in times in crisis.

“We bring perspectives that may be lacking in decision making in the community and in the public at large,” An-Na’im said. “I’m in this for the long haul, in the sense that I don’t believe in quick success. So while a crisis might call for an immediate response, that response must be consistent with the long-term solution to the problem. Scholarship is critical for matching long-term and short-term strategies.”

The time commitment has been considerable: Political science professors Robert Pastor and Larry Taulbee, with their expertise in international affairs and terrorism, not surprisingly clocked hours of print and broadcast interviews; Department of Emergency Medicine faculty Nicki Pesik and James Augustine have spent many hours, including time during days off, doing multiple interviews about preparedness of emergency departments for bioterrorism for CNN and local TV news stations; Professors An-Na’im, Carrie Wickham (political science), Devin Stewart (Middle Eastern studies) and Beverly Schaffer (economics) spoke at a student-sponsored forum on Sept. 19, then spent more than an half-hour giving a group interview to a local radio station.

Stress and anxiety experts were in tremendous demand from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, including Barbara Rothbaum, Andrea Blount, Beth Seelig, Nadine Kaslow, Jeffrey Kelsey and Doug Bremner; and Goizueta faculty, including George Benston, Sherron Bienvenu, Russ Coff, Benn Konsynski and Daniel Rod-riguez, discussed all aspects of the nation’s economy.

Over at Emory Hospitals, Knox Todd in emergency medicine, Chris Hillyer in pathology and Curtis Echols in safety management all spoke with media regarding issues such as blood supply and emergency response.

As a result of finance professor Jeff Rosensweig’s omnipresence on CNN, a member of the public wrote to thank Rosensweig for being “honest” about the recession, but also for being “reassuring and knowledgeable about foreign markets and every segment of our economy. But most importantly, [Rosensweig] was optimistic with reasoning behind it. “I can’t explain what it meant to hear a wise, honest man reassuring us at this moment in time.”


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