Editorial: Communication gaps mar remembrance

The University’s response to the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedies was nothing short of remarkable. The events, including a Mass in the church, an interfaith prayer service, a panel discussion and a documentary screening, were all effective ways for not just students, but also faculty and staff to heal and obtain closure as a community. The Oreo was a whirlwind of activity, with donations to local police, fire and rescue squads being solicited through the sale of ribbons and a large wall set up for students to sign with their own reflections on the day.

Where the University misfired was in a lack of communication between the administrators who organized the events and the professors who taught classes. Although most professors were willing to allow students to miss class to attend the scheduled events, there were several who gave students permission to forego their studies but did so threateningly, implying that missed work would be vital and difficult to make up.

This is completely out of line with the University’s mission, which preaches fairness in the classroom. Students who lost friends or family in the World Trade Center, Pentagon or in the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania would be devastated to hear such a response from a professor; even students who did not know any of the dead would be understandably outraged. The church service in particular was a poignant event which, given the time of day it was held, conflicted with a great many class schedules. Again, even though many professors acquiesced with students wishing to attend, even one difficult professor is too many.

Poor communication also affected classes which were cancelled – an act was decried by the University last year because students needed class to stabilize their day. This is just as true now as it was then. Students who did not wish to attend Mass but had their classes cancelled anyway were left with nothing to do and, surrounded by the reminders of last year’s horrors, likely spent the time mulling over the attacks – an unhealthy way to deal with the anniversary. Classes should have been held even if attendance was not compulsory.

Furthermore, many classes squandered the opportunity to create discussion, only to stick with what was on the syllabus. This was an even more apparent eyesore in departments such as sociology, where some courses dealing with Middle Eastern relations or terrorism did not capitalize on the date to discuss the events. Have we become so married to the course curriculum that professors are unable to take a short amount of time to reflect on such an important date by discussing current events or what has changed since last year? The University definitely supplied a thorough catalog of events for the day; it’s a shame that better efforts weren’t taken to discuss student attendance with professors.