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The Daily Tar Heel

Tragedies Affect Teaching Plans

Most professors have avoided straying far from their original lesson plans, but they acknowledge that the attacks merit attention.

"These events are so important that we can't ignore them," said Douglas Maclean, a philosophy professor.

In lecturing about the attacks and their aftermath, professors said they often find themselves unable to hide their beliefs about recent events.

Journalism Professor Chuck Stone compared the situation in classrooms to the world of journalism, explaining that he believes objectivity is a myth when dealing with such enormous events.

History Professor Sarah Shields said the significance of recent events warrants class discussion, even if it means her personal opinions are included. Shields teaches two classes -- "The Modern Muslim World" and "The Middle East and the West."

"It would not be appropriate for me to keep that out of the classroom," said Shields, a member of the Progressive Faculty Network.

Lindsay Herrington, a student in Shields' "The Modern Muslim World" class, said Shields has managed to share her opinion and remain fair in her lectures. "I think she's been very good about it," Herrington said.

Parisa Haghshenas, a senior from Tehran, Iran, also said she was impressed with Shields' objectivity.

"She's not been biased at all," Haghshenas said.

Sue Estroff, Faculty Council chairwoman, said professors are free to express their beliefs, but they must make it clear that the discussion is open to dissenting opinions.

"I have every confidence that the faculty understands that," Estroff said.

Chancellor James Moeser has received pressure recently to silence many members of the faculty who have been active in speaking out against a violent response by the United States.

Estroff said she and other faculty members were impressed with Moeser's decision to encourage professors to voice their opinions, however unpopular. "He has been clear, impassioned and courageous," she said.

But some professors have done more than share their opinions in class -- some have altered their syllabuses to focus more on current events.

Most alterations were short term. Stone said he used a session of his class on censorship to discuss how media sources have been stifled during war time in the past.

But some classes significantly changed direction. Students in a freshman seminar taught by city and regional planning Professor Emil Malizia originally were investigating downtown revitalization efforts in their hometowns.

But after the terrorist attacks, Malizia floated the idea of having the students focus on the World Trade Center and its effect on downtown New York's revitalization of the 1970s.

"The class decided that doing a single case study of New York would be more relevant to the University than studying students' hometowns," Malizia said.

Stone's magazine writing course is working on a magazine about the Sept. 11 attacks that will be released at the end of the semester. Two of Stone's students traveled to New York City last month to conduct interviews.

UNC professors said the full effect of the terrorist attacks has yet to be understood, and they must continue to adapt their teaching methods as events unfold.

Maclean said, "I still don't feel like I have sufficient knowledge of the circumstances."

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