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November 4, 2002

First JAC forum to address Iraq

By Michael Terrazas

Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor and columnist Jay Bookman will headline a panel that will dissect current and potentially explosive relations between the United States and Iraq, as part of the newly inaugurated Emory Public Issues Forum, to be held Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 4–5 p.m. in 208 White Hall.

Joining Bookman on the panel will be three Emory professors: Mahmoud Al-Batal, associate professor of Middle Eastern studies and director of the Emory College Language Center; Abdullahi An-Na’im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law; and Frank Lechner, associate professor of sociology. Bookman will deliver a 10-minute address, and each professor will respond.

The forum is the latest in a series of programs designed by the Emory College/Campus Life Joint Activities Committee (JAC). When it was created three years ago by Steve Sanderson and Frances Lucas-Tauchar, former deans of the college and Campus Life, respectively, the JAC’s goal was to foster Emory’s intellectual community by further integrating the missions of the two entities it bridges.

“The aim of the JAC is to support events that bring together students and faculty members in meaningful activities outside the classroom,” said college interim Dean Bobby Paul. “The Public Issues Forum, in addition to providing a venue in which the campus can examine important issues of the day, is intended to be a place in which students and faculty together can address and debate issues of common concern in a relatively open and unrestricted atmosphere.”

Lechner said this particular forum can accomplish JAC’s mission “by bringing some academic perspective to bear on a great public issue and by having members of the Emory community join a larger societal debate.”

“For the first event, we chose a speaker—Jay Bookman of the AJC—who wrote a provocative article which reflects the opinions of other journalists, scholars and public officials,” said John Ford, senior vice president and dean of Campus Life. “We decided to have several faculty react to the primary speaker's opening remarks to get the discussion going before we throw the discussion open to the audience.”

The forum also helps accomplish a goal recently voiced by President Bill Chace. After conversing with his colleagues from around the country during the recent meeting of the American Association of Universities, which Emory hosted Oct. 20–22, Chace learned of a number of ugly and potentially dangerous episodes that have occurred recently on several campuses, specifically those of the universities of Colorado and Michigan.

Seemingly innocent events, sparked by either the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict or the situation with Iraq—or, most likely, a combination of both—quickly snowballed into negative and confrontational situations between students of Jewish and Arab origins. At recent meetings of the Faculty Council and University Senate, Chace exhorted Emory faculty to lead open discussions with students about these world events, in the hopes that people might become better informed and that passions may be routed into learning and dialogue, rather than entrenchment and division.

“The very nature of some of these issues means that distress, and even pain, is latent within them,” Chace said. “The task, then, is both to recognize the pain that exists and to converse in such a way that pain alone is not the only subject. Universities are places that stand for the use of the mind as it can make sense of emotions. Discussions need not, should not, be bloodless. But those discussions should give privilege to thinking over temper.”

Future iterations of the Public Issues Forum may also address global issues, Paul said, or they may focus on more national or even local concerns.

“We have no set agenda and hope to be responsive to the needs and wishes of our constituency: the students and faculty of Emory College,” Paul said.

A reception in White Hall will follow the hour-long event.