Terrorism Hot Topic on College Campuses Professors Say War against Terror Isn't Going to Go Away

By Sanchez, Robert | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

Terrorism Hot Topic on College Campuses Professors Say War against Terror Isn't Going to Go Away


Sanchez, Robert, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Robert Sanchez Daily Herald Staff Writer

Growing up near O'Hare International Airport, the fear of a terrorist attack always lingered in the back of Dan Banfield's mind.

"I can't help but think O'Hare is a pretty big target," the 23- year-old Des Plaines resident said.

So when the senior at Elmhurst College learned the school offered a class on how terrorists can employ such biological weapons as viruses to accomplish their goals, he signed up - even though it had nothing to do with his major.

"I don't know much about biology," admits Banfield, a business major. "But I figured it would be a good way to get some information about something that affects me as opposed to taking a class just to get a credit."

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, colleges and universities across Illinois have expanded or created classes about terrorism to meet a growing student demand. Northern Illinois University has seen enrollment double to 100 students in its Political Violence class.

"If we weren't short on staff, we could have offered two or three more sections of the class," said Ladd Thomas, a political science professor at the university in DeKalb. "The student interest is very great."

Some colleges, such as North Central College in Naperville, are incorporating terrorism-related topics into existing classes. Other institutions that didn't teach classes about terrorism before Sept. 11 are offering them now.

Scott Levi, a professor at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, was supposed to be teaching a class this spring about the history of India. Instead, he is teaching about the history of terrorism.

"The war on terrorism is going to take a long time," Levi said. "We thought it would be appropriate to offer our students some kind of historical insight into the factors leading up to this point."

As part of Thomas' class, students are taught how terrorist organizations are structured, operated and funded. They also learn counterterrorism tactics.

Thomas said there is a genuine desire among his students to learn about the subject. He said it's a level of interest he has never seen before.

"In the past, the threat has always been in some far away country," Thomas said. "So it was easy to ignore it and say it won't happen here. Now, for the first time, the threat is close to home. And it's very real."

Thomas said the threats of anthrax, the fighting in Afghanistan and continued speculation about terrorist acts have only fueled that interest. "It's pretty sobering," he said.

Professor Frank Mittermeyer, the chairman of Elmhurst College's biology department, said he was bombarded with so many questions from students and fellow educators about bioterrorism that he thought it would make a great subject for a class.

The result was a one-month course Mittermeyer taught in January. As part of the class, the 24 students heard lectures on various topics from infection control to the psychological consequences of terrorism. …

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