Open discussion addresses Katrina issues

By Sky Opila

Amid the confusion and chaos surrounding Hurricane Katrina, the University’s Teachers for Peace and Justice helped students cope with their many questions.

The activist group sponsored a “Teach-In” entitled “Katrina and Other Human Disasters” on Wednesday. The session was open to students and faculty members who were interested in discussing and learning more about Katrina.

Teachers for Peace and Justice are faculty members who got together to organize open forum events for students to come and discuss their thoughts on pressing issues.

According to William Maxwell, University English professor and member of Teachers for Peace and Justice, this was not the first event that the group has held.

“This group came into existence after 9/11 and into the lead up of the War on Iraq,” Maxwell said.

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    He said the Teachers for Peace and Justice consists of several University graduate students and about 50 professors.

    “In the last year or two, we have not had that many events, but Katrina invoked a return,” Maxwell said.

    The format for the event was a series of short presentations given by a panel of six professors from the University, followed by an open question and answer session from the audience.

    The moderator and master of ceremonies for Wednesday night’s forum was Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, University professor of sociology and history.

    The panel included: Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, professor of sociology and expert on arms control, disarmament and international security program; Zsuzsa Gille, professor of sociology; Adlai Murdoch, professor of French and a Caribbean native, an area prone to several hurricanes per year; Michael Schlesinger, professor of atmospheric sciences and member of the University’s Climate Research Group; Joseph Valente, English professor; and Kellee Weinhold, journalism professor.

    Topics of discussion included Hurricane Katrina’s link to Homeland Security, the unnatural elements of Katrina, the black Atlantic perspective on Katrina, projections of human-induced climate change and their influence on the new New Orleans, the state of grievance with the catastrophe and media coverage of the event.

    Michael Rothberg, English professor and a member of the Teachers for Peace and Justice, had a hand in selecting the panel for the event.

    “The idea was to get a lot of different perspectives so we can try to figure out what this all means,” Rothberg said.

    However, Rothberg said this event was not all about the faculty. Students piled into room 319 of Gregory Hall to partake in the discussion, with some students standing in the back.

    Jacqueline McCormick, senior in LAS, said she attended the discussion because of an announcement her English professor made in class. Others attended for extra credit or just for the purpose of gaining knowledge.

    “This was an enjoyable experience,” McCormick said. “Definitely time well spent. I learned a lot and heard many points I had some prior knowledge of stressed.”

    For more information about future events by the Teachers for Peace and Justice, contact Michael Rothberg via e-mail at [email protected]