9/11 Anniversary: Political Science Professors reflect on student reactions, class changes

Eleven years ago, CSU political science professors were forced to adjust their curriculum and teach students about an event that they themselves were still struggling to cope with.

Before the debris from the twin towers had settled, CSU students, faculty and administration gathered on the plaza in front of the Lory Student Center to mourn together.

“The buildings were still falling down and smoldering when they met on the plaza,” retired political science professor Robert Lawrence said.

“The immediate impact on campus was shock and confusion,” political science professor Scott Moore said in an email to the Collegian. “I think we all felt dumbfounded and helpless.”

In the days following the attack, political science professors worked to explain to their students what happened, how it happened and why it happened.

“Students had a hard time wrapping their heads around the whole event or chain of events,” Moore said. “Students and faculty had a difficult problem absorbing and learning ‘why?’ ”

“I spent time in class talking about the attack and giving students an opportunity to comment, express concerns and ask questions,” political science professor Sandra Davis said. “Confronting the attack was one way to start ‘coming to grips’ with the event.”

Lawrence saw exponential growth in attendance at the lecture following the attacks. Even un-registered students came to listen.

“People were standing along the walls. The classroom wasn’t large, but it was standing room only,” Lawrence said. “That particular semester, politics and history seemed more relevant to students.”

In the days and months following 9/11, Lawrence and other political science faculty adjusted their curriculum in an attempt to help students understand why this event happened, and to discuss what the United States’ reaction should be.

“The day after 9/11, I said a few things in class about the imperative for us to try to learn what this represented, particularly how this attack came about,” Moore said. “After a few weeks, it came out how comparatively easy it was for the several hijackers to slip through security at Boston’s Logan Airport to board United Airlines planes.

“When it became known, I think the bravery of the passengers on Flight 93 was definitely noticed and recorded in many of the students’ minds.”

According to Lawrence, new information was coming out everyday about who was involved in the attack, how it happened and how the United States government planned to act.

“After 9/11 it kind of dawned on a lot of people that the United States was vulnerable, and these things could happen on our shores and if it were a nuclear weapon, it would be really serious,” Lawrence said.

Since the attacks, Moore has continued to use his classes to help students understand the impact of 9/11.

“I have spent more time in my classes dealing with ‘decision-making’ and the frailties of human rationality,” Moore said. “I have also spent more time on ‘accountability’ in my State and Local Government and Public Administration courses.”

Senior Reporter Kate Simmons can be reached at news@collegian.com.