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ASU responds to campus attack


Tuesday September 18, 2001

PHOENIX - "All truly experienced people know that life is fragile and society is vulnerable. For the first time in our lives, we realize now that we are vulnerable too," Arizona State University President Lattie Coor told several hundred faculty and staff members Thursday at a State of the University address turned to grief by last Tuesday's tragedy.

"Whatever the final (death and injury) count, remember that one-by-one they were all innocent people," Coor said.

Coor, who arrived late due to an event at main campus also related to Tuesday's attacks, expressed his shock and concerns after a Muslim student was attacked on the ASU main campus Thursday morning.

Ahmad Saad Nasim, 23, was thrown to the ground and punched or kicked while his attackers chanted, "Die, Muslim, die."

Nasim, a U.S. citizen for two years, came here from Saudi Arabia.

"We must do everything in our power to make sure that does not happen. He is a student. He is an American. We cannot do this," Coor said.

"Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe," ASU-West Provost Elaine Maimon said. "Just to break bread together was important to do today."

Afsaneh Nahavandi, president of the ASU-West Academic Senate and School of Management professor, opened the meeting with a moment of silence and a comment on the University's role in reshaping life after last Tuesday's events.

"The academic community has a responsibility to the campus, and to the community as a whole to replace hatred and violence with tolerance and learning," she said. "America has been lucky - it is a very new experience to us to feel so unsafe."

Nahavandi introduced Associated Students of Arizona State University-West President Devin Rankin, who discussed plans to work with Nahavandi to set up a time when students can gather and discuss the events and their needs and emotions.

ASASUW also planned a ribbon campaign in which students and staff can donate and receive a ribbon to honor people injured and killed in last Tuesday's tragedy. All money received will go directly to the New York City Fire and Police departments to aid in the search and rescue.

ASASUW also has started an anti-hate crime petition. Plans for the petition were already underway before the attack, but "in light of recent events, we feel it is very important right now," Rankin said.

The petition asks legislatures to forward hate crime initiatives to Congress that provide better protection against racial, sexual and religious attacks and discrimination.

"I am proud to be a part of the ASU-West community. I discovered that at the (candlelight) vigil. There were students standing side-by-side with faculty and staff - wonderful," said Rankin, who also spoke of what ASASUW will try to accomplish this semester.

It is "working hard to overcome what the student government has been in the past, looking towards making this a campus community," Rankin said.

Academic Senate President Vince Waldron roamed the floor with a microphone, getting comments from staff and several students, many of whom were concerned for Middle Eastern students.

Ennas, a student from Chaldean, Iraq, said, "We (Middle Easterners) have been put in a negative category. Everyone thinks that Middle Eastern students support the terrorists, and they should know we are not for what is happening. (They should) look at Middle Easterners in America as Americans. America is the melting pot, and all humans deserve to be treated equally."

Another student referred to the hostage crisis in the Middle East, saying that Middle Eastern Americans "wanted to defend their culture yet at the same time say, 'that is not me.'"

Maimon spoke of the tragic events, quoting a passage from Julius Caesar and reiterating the idea of the permanent scar last Tuesday's attacks have left on America.

"It is affirmed at a time like this that we are all connected - living organic filaments - and that connection and bond is alive," she said, adding that people always will ask where you were when the attack occurred.

Her response will be: "We were here on our campus - counseling students, reaching out. We were here on our campus - fighting against hatred. We were here on our campus - doing our part to promote life instead of death," she said.

Associate Professor Jane Carey distributed anti-hate stickers, and Maimon noted, "Never a waste of the taxpayers' money buying anti-hate stickers by the yard - I only wish they could just gather dust."

Listing a number of prior terrorist attacks dating from 1983, Coor asked if anyone remembered them. He said such things are "no longer remote events. Tuesday changed that."

Upon hearing of the attacks, Coor immediately contacted state and federal officials for information.

"It has changed us in a fundamental way that will remain with us for the rest of our lives," Coor said, noting that the terrorists used America's "openness as a society" against its citizens.

"Never before in our history has the air travel system closed down - until Tuesday," he said. "The (stock) market closed only for two days during the Great Depression, but it has been closed four days as of now."

Coor's closing remarks were a plea to everyone to take the time to get to know the Muslim culture.

"We can't blame 'them' and include in 'them' a large portion of stereotyped people," he said.

As for ASU's role in the situation, Coor said, "Most importantly we must do what we do best: commit ourselves to deepening the understanding of it (Muslim culture) as an educational institution. Deepen your understanding of the Muslim world. It is not a world of terrorists; it is a beautiful part of our world."


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