Message from President Faulkner
September 11, 2001
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To the University of Texas at Austin community,
This morning, I convened a group to discuss our situation at UT for the remainder of the day in the wake of the horrific events in New York, Washington, and elsewhere. Our conclusion is that it is better for the health of our community to continue as well as we can with the normal business of the campus, including holding classes.
This decision is consistent with the Governor's decision with respect to the Capitol, and the UT System's decision with respect to its operations. By 9:30 this morning, we had heightened security on the campus, It will remain in a heightened state indefinitely beyond today.
By email to faculty and staff, we are taking steps to provide long distance telephone access from campus phones for employees who have concerns about family members in affected cities.
It is important for us all to help our nation to remain functional and stable in this stressful time.
Larry R. Faulkner, President
University of Texas at Austin
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 23:48:51 -0500
From: Mary Celeste Kearney
Subject: Processing the NYC/DC events
Dear President Faulkner -
I would like to tell you how disheartened I am by the UT faculty's apparent lack of encouragement for students to discuss in class the tragic events of yesterday.
I spent 3 hours without a break this morning talking over yesterday's events with my graduate students. (We would have stayed longer, had the room not been needed for another class.) *None* of these students were given this opportunity by professors in any of their other classes. Moreover, many of them are AIs and TAs, and told me resentfully and often tearfully how they were expected to teach their classes yesterday and today as usual. Most of them had extreme difficulty concentrating on their lectures, and feel that their class sessions were a waste of time, as both they and their students were clearly upset and unable to focus on course material.
Given the positive outcome of my session with graduate students, I decided to conduct my undergraduate class also as a forum for discussing yesterday's issues. Again, the majority of students told me that they had not been given this opportunity in any other class and that, because of that, professors and TAs seemed callous about yesterday's events and unconcerned about any difficulties students were facing attempting to cope with their anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger.
I truly believe that we, as members of an educational institution, have a responsibility to turn horrific, traumatic events such as those that occurred yesterday into learning experiences for our students and ourselves, as well as to help students through the process of grieving and sense-making in the absence of their families. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have been the response of most of us with the power to create forums on campus for this type of communication.
It is my hope that you, as our University President, will encourage the faculty to take the time that is necessary from our normal academic routines to talk with students about yesterday's horrible events.
Mary Celeste Kearney
Department of Radio-Television-Film
The University of Texas at Austin