Gaudino schedule changes to reflect current crisis

The Gaudino forum schedule was recently altered by Robert Jackall to deal with issues pertaining to the United States’ evolving response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Gaudino scholar Robert Jackall has rearranged the forum’s fall schedule to focus on all aspects of the tragedy, including discussions concerning the implications the attacks have on personal liberty in the United States and an overview of the political and social situation in Afghanistan.

Changes in the program are entirely at the discretion of the Gaudino Scholar, although Jackall said that he received a number of comments from faculty members on the subject. The fall semester program had previously been arranged to cover topics on American multiculturalism’s unintended implications, free speech and reparations (such as to families of former slaves). The specific goal of the original program was to bring in a variety of experts to speak on a number of domestic political issues. After the hijackings and subsequent disasters, however, Jackall thought it pertinent to delay the seemingly less pressing issues. He also faced the problem of speakers canceling.

Jackall has already rebooked some of his original speakers for the second semester. “People don’t want to think [about the original discussion topics right now],” he explained.

“Right now, we’re responding to a need,” Jackall said. “Students can come talk with faculty. . .[The Gaudino Forum] is a place for students to come and ask the questions they want to ask.” According to Jackall, a number of nationally recognized experts were contacted to come speak, but all of them were already booked. In retrospect, however, Williams’ faculty, which has many experts in the fields of international relations, constitutional law, and terrorism, offers more than enough options for the discussions.

The Gaudino schedule will be packed, with forums scheduled for Oct. 2, 10, 16 and 23. Last year, forums were held every other week, but now the forums will be held weekly in light of the interest expressed by the College community and the necessity of conveying a large amount of information quickly.

The schedule of the forums is as follows: Michael MacDonald will speak on terrorism on Oct. 2; Marc Lynch will discuss Middle East politics on Oct. 10; David Edwards will talk about Afghanistan on Oct. 16 and its internal situation; and, later in the fall, Gary Jacobsohn will highlight some important changes the attacks may bring on national defense and civil liberties later in the fall. Jackall will most likely contribute to Jacobsohn’s forum because of his extensive research of policing in America.

All of the speakers are Williams professors. However, Jackall stressed that the forums will not be lectures; professors will speak on their subject for a few minutes and then the floor will open for discussion and debate. “The key idea is the Gaudino Forum is a unique space in that we’re using it this year to provide a chance for students to come together with knowledgeable people and engage in discussion and debate,” Jackall said. “[The Gaudino Forum] is a space for reasoned debate of public issues — not a place for advocacy.”

Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, Jackall was already expanding the Gaudino Forum’s scope beyond its historical borders of examining issues directly pertinent to the Williams community. Few, if any of the topics he had laid out for the year applied specifically to Williams; instead, they took on a more national scale, addressing domestic issues that the country will face for years to come. The Gaudino Forum has always responded to the community’s wishes, Jackall said, focusing on topics that students or faculty thought were particularly pertinent to the College.

And while the forum has usually been more reactive, responding to issues, Jackall is open — and has moved towards — using the Gaudino Forums to stimulate debate; the speakers he had originally scheduled are all experts on prominent issues in America. “One of the things in mind was to use the Gaudino Forum not just for campus issues,” Jackall said. “Each Gaudino Scholar interprets the role of Gaudino Scholar in his or her own way. . .and I’m willing to broaden the [reach of the forum.]”

With that thought in mind, the upcoming forums will almost certainly not stop with the initial four that Jackall has planned. He is fairly confident that some second semester forums will address the problems that arise from the crisis, particularly its long-term effects on the United States.

It is the impact on domestic policing that the terrorist attacks will have that most interests Jackall, who has studied the New York Police Department and its methods of policing. Debates over profiling and other police methods have already arisen.

While there is no doubt that the bent of the forums has already been decided for the near future, Jackall encourages students to propose ideas for the forums.

And while he is concentrating on educating the campus about the crisis, Jackall said that he is open to using the Gaudino Forum to establish a more specific program to address students’ lack of knowledge about the topics that suddenly became pertinent after Sept. 11. According to Jackall, student ignorance on international issues may be partially negated by education on the history of different issues in the world.

For instance, thethe crisis in the Middle East would be a perfect subject for Jackall to hold forums on.

In the meantime, however, he is confident that the forums will be successful: “Everyone won’t go to each forum, but there will be a lot of people at each one.” Jackall added that the forums will be a unique way for students to learn about issues in a (hopefully) unbiased way. “I think the neutral ground of [a Gaudino Forum] is fundamental.”

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