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18-month initiative on political violence begins

by Gilien Silsby

An 18-month Political Violence Initiative was unveiled at the Sept. 24 teach-in as a key university response to the terrorist actions that have caused upheaval around the world.

The USC initiative will involve large numbers of students, alumni and the community in faculty-led seminars, workshops, lectures, teach-ins and courses. It was announced by Joseph Aoun, dean of USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“Political violence has numerous roots and many repercussions,” Aoun said. “Taking a multidisciplinary approach, we will offer background, analysis and discussion of the psychological, economic, political, legal, historical and sociological aspects of political violence.”

The Political Violence Initiative may reshape the content of some courses and curricula on USC’s campus. New classes may be offered – from healing post-violence trauma to understanding the inner workings of the intelligence community – and old courses may resurface. Ron Gottesman’s three-volume encyclopedia, Violence in America, could be a starting point for study and discussion, Aoun said.

The dialogue on politically motivated violence will frequently take place in informal settings on campus, and plans are being developed to take the show on the road, focusing initially on USC’s numerous alumni chapters.

Laurie Brand, a professor of international studies, is helping Aoun shape the initiative. “Our hope is to provide a variety of fora and programs for the university community and beyond that will promote understanding of the current situation as it unfolds, as well as provide a framework for further inquiry and action,” Brand said.

While Aoun and faculty members make changes in curricula and organize seminars, teach-ins will continue to be offered on campus.

“Students need a place to come and discuss the latest developments and share knowledge,” Aoun said. “Teach-ins at USC will not be a one- or two-time event. They will be here for a long time.

“I firmly believe that knowledge has enhanced value when it leads to action,” he said. “We can use knowledge to instill calm and reason and help people understand what is happening around us. As a community comprising numerous cultural, ethnic and religious groups, the university itself is a model for diversity. We can show the world that even from the ashes of loss and devastation, tolerance can take root and flourish.”

(Alfred G. Kildow contributed to this story.)