Stanford Report, September 26, 2001
Panel fields queries concerning safety, emotional fallout of Sept. 11 tragedies
BY BARBARA PALMER
The Office of Campus Relations, headed by LaDoris Cordell, convened a panel last week to provide expert opinions in the swirl of questions and concerns about practical, emotional and spiritual matters that have followed the attacks on Sept. 11.
In a forum Thursday called "Stanford Cares," panelists fielded questions from Cordell and from members of an audience of about 70 people. The panelists, who represented the Department of Public Safety, the Muslim community, the WorkLife Office, the Help Center, Human Resources and the Office of Religious Life, also provided information about online and other resources available to the campus community.
Stanford Police Chief Marvin Moore reported on the increased security measures the police force has put into place and on acts of intolerance toward Muslims on campus.
But first, Moore offered reassurance. "Our community is just as safe today as it was on Sept. 10," he said. As of Sept. 19, the police department had received five reports of harassing e-mail sent to the campus Islamic community -- all originating from external sources, including one e-mail from Australia, he said. There's been one incident of graffiti, which he characterized as "not significant, nor a threat."
Moore encouraged members of the campus community to be aware of their surroundings and report anything that seemed out of the ordinary to the police. "No one knows our world better than us. You're the expert on your environment," he said. The emergency number 911 "is there for you to use. Keep us involved," he asked.
The campus police force has increased its vigilance at high-profile events, Moore said. "You won't necessarily see us in uniform, but we're there monitoring events."
In response to a question from the audience, Moore said he didn't think Stanford was receiving more threats than other universities in the United States.
Reaching out to the Muslim community
Rania Hegazi, fellowship coordinator for the Humanities Center, explained to the audience how she felt as a member of the Muslim community, and offered suggestions to non-Muslims who wanted to lend support to Muslims. "I have mixed feelings. I feel anxiety and shame, and often the need to hide -- which is a pretty bad feeling," she said. " I feel fortunate that I work here. There are no stares and people behave normally."
There's a "sense of panic," however, in Silicon Valley's Muslim community at large, she said. Women who wear traditional headscarves are afraid to drive or go out in public.
The Muslim community shares in the nation's grief, Hegazi pointed out. "Most Muslims here are Americans, and what this attack has created is a sense of exclusion that should not exist. The campus community can help relieve the feeling of exclusion that Arabs and Muslims feel by reaching out," Hegazi said. "Reaching out, talking, smiling -- all can help create a sense of normalcy," she said.
Panelists later supplied the URL for the Islamic Society of Stanford University, where messages of support can be sent to the Islamic community: www.stanford.edu/group/ISSU.
What should you to say to children?
The number one concern parents have is what they should say to their children about the attacks, said Teresa Rasco, director of the WorkLife Office. "Children perceive danger differently than adults," she said. "We need to make sure we don't put our fear on to them. If we overreact, we can get into a 'mean world syndrome,'" she said.
Rasco also cautioned parents against exposing their children to graphic photographs and video in the news media: "Children aren't desensitized to violence the way that adults are."
Her office reminded university child care center staff members -- who, she said, "didn't need to be reminded" -- that there was likely to be a lot of talk, role-playing, acting out and tears and anger among young children. "Anger covers up fear," she said.
She also stressed that the campus child care staff is trained to know what to do in the event of a bomb threat. The safety of the children in university child care centers is a top priority with campus police and in the university's emergency preparedness plan, Rasco said.
Copies of an article, "How to Talk with Children About the Recent Terrorist Event," and a list of websites with information about communicating with children about war and other difficult topics are available at the WorkLife Office, Rasco said. Her staff also will mail the article to anyone who requests a copy. The WorkLife Office phone number is 723-2660.
Help from the Help Center
Help Center Director David Rasch said his staff has been responding to requests for meetings within departments as well as offering individual counseling.
The World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks and the airliner crash in Pennsylvania are "phenomenally upsetting events," he said. "It's become clear to me there is a human need for people to come together and connect, formally and informally. We're experiencing our lives differently than before Sept. 11."
Rasch has posted information online describing the physical, cognitive and emotional signs of traumatic stress and who is at risk (it may be found at www.stanford.edu/dept/helpcenter/TraumaticStress.html). Symptoms can include short-term memory loss, diminished abstract thinking, loss of emotional control, nausea, fatigue and vomiting. It's important for all of us to be tolerant of one another, he said. "My message is that it would be good for all of us to be mindful that we're in a different state of mind."
Susan Hoerger, associate director for employee and labor relations, discussed university policy regarding staff members who have found their lives interrupted by the aftereffects of the attacks. "It can't be business as usual in a world where it isn't business as usual," she said.
The university has granted time off without requiring the use of vacation or personal time for people who missed work on Sept. 11 because of school closings or other obligations related to the terrorist attacks and to employees stranded outside of California due to restrictions on air travel.
Department managers have been asked to be flexible and sensitive in giving vacation and personal time off to employees who want to assist in relief efforts or who need time off for other purposes related to the terrorist attacks. Where appropriate, sick leave is available, as well as short- and long-term disability, Hoerger said, although she added that she hoped most employees would be able to remain at work because of the benefit of being in a community.
The faith community
To Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, associate dean for religious life, Cordell simply asked, "Talk to us, Rabbi."
Karlin-Neumann recalled how a quickly assembled prayer vigil held at noon in Memorial Church just hours after the attacks filled the church to overflowing. "The opportunity to gather is a significant need," she said. To meet that need, the deans for religious life will host open discussions every day this week at noon in the Round Room behind Memorial Church, Karlin-Neumann said. The room will be open from noon to 1 p.m.
Services conducted by the Office of Religious Life have included prayer vigils and a Multifaith Welcome held on Sunday with music and sacred texts from several spiritual traditions. An opportunity to attend Muslim prayers will be offered soon, she said. "Religious traditions have the language to move us from fear to hope. They address questions like theodicy, justice and injustice."
The rabbi said that in addition to pastoral and priestly roles, she
also has a prophetic role to play on campus, one she is fulfilling by
voicing her concern about increased militarism and the desire for vengeance.
"Some of what is suggested to be done is not from the best of our natures,"