Welcome back to the 255! We, here at HUMSOC, hope all your semesters are off to a fabulous start. As the semester is well under way, we wanted to highlight an ongoing event series that jump-started this academic year. Professor Lauren Brown, Chair of the History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies Department, coordinated a special event series entitled “II + 20” to reflect on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. This interdisciplinary series has brought together faculty from all over the MMC community, including Professors from the Dance, Psychology, Theatre Arts, and Communication Arts Departments. To get the inside scoop on the inspiration and collaborative process that led to II + 20, we took the time to interview Professor Lauren Brown herself! Check out what she had to say below.
What was the inspiration for the II + 20 September Event Series?
Earlier this year the faculty noted we were coming up on the 20th anniversary of 9.11. We realized that while this is a moment we will never forget, for our students this was a moment they did not remember–because they had not been born. Yet we’ve seen how radically that day shaped both the world our students grew up in and the city they now call home.
What are you hoping to accomplish with this series?
We wanted to mark the anniversary with conversation–talking and thinking about what changed and what didn’t. We couldn’t know, when we started planning this months ago, that the week before school began the United States would, after twenty years, finally leave Afghanistan. These discussions feel even more important given so. We did know, obviously, that the world was still navigating a pandemic–I’ve heard students say COVID-19 feels more important to them than 9.11. But they aren’t separate. New York was an epicenter for both and both changed the city. It’s our job as scholars to compare these events and think about how crisis impacts our communities–we must learn so as to do better.
To what coursework, this semester, do these events relate?
The II + 20 September Series: The City Since became an amazing collaboration with faculty across the college, intending to engage students from a wide range of programs. Some of our writing professors are dedicating their semester coursework to reading 9.11 literature and writing themed essays. Theatre Professor Kenny Finkle had an alumna, Kellie Diodato ’21, who completed a play on 9.11 last year (which she’d begun in Creative Writing Professor Jerry William’s class in an earlier semester). With directing by alum and Theatre Adjunct Richard Hutzler, Kellie’s work will get a featured reading as part of the series. Other professors are hosting guest lectures—my American Foreign Relations course will host legal scholar Dr. Lawrence Cappello, speaking on the radical alteration of privacy laws by the Patriot Act post-9.11, while Professor Jenny Mueller’s Contemporary Global Issues class will host Vikram Singh, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Institute for Peace, as he debriefs us on America’s exit from Afghanistan. Philosophy Professor Sharon Meagher kicked off our series with an excellent talk on what it means to live ethically in the city and Religious Studies Professor Brad Herling is opening his Nature of Evil AIP for a discussion of faith and doubt at Ground Zero. Towards the end of the month Psychology Professor Cheryl Paradis will share how our brains remember (or don’t) moments like 9.11. And we will have a roundtable of professors debating how history in creative form–film, literature, theatre, art, and dance–can be most successful (or sometimes fail). Finally, Archivist and Professor Mary Brown will be taking students on the Staten Island Ferry to view the Tribute in Light from the water on 9.11 itself. We are so grateful to all our colleagues for their contributions to making this series happen and we hope to see many of our students there.
A special thanks to Professor Brown for taking the time to answer our queries. If you are interested in learning more about the event series, check out the HUMSOC page on MMC Engage to register for the current events. We hope you all get the opportunity to participate in this historical moment. Lastly, we would like thank you all for joining this week on the 255 and looking forward to seeing you back here soon. As always, a gentle reminder to be kind, stay safe, and stay cozy as we approach the Fall season!