Attacks Stir Spirit of Unity on Campus

In the aftermath of the devastating terrorist attacks on the United States last week, UC Davis was open for business. But life on campus in many ways since Tuesday, Sept. 11, has not been business as usual.

Flags have flown at half-staff. Students and employees have gathered around TVs in the Memorial Union to watch reports from New York and Washington, D.C.

And as the campus begins to process the impact of the devastation, employees and students are taking time out from deadline responsibilities and summer-session exams to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks and to call for peace and understanding.

"It is clear when a tragedy like this occurs, we must come together as a community," Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said in an open campus forum the day after the attacks.

About 350 employees and students gathered at Lake Spafford last Friday — named by President Bush as a National Day of Remembrance — for prayers and patriotic songs.

Medical center contributes

At UC Davis Medical Center several hundred people attended courtyard interfaith services led by the center's pastoral program. At least four members of the medical center staff have been called on to participate in attack relief efforts, said spokeswoman Carole Gan.

On the afternoon of the terrorist attacks, doctors Steven Tharatt, associate professor of pulmonary and critical medicine, and Benjamin Schifrin, a volunteer faculty member in family and community medicine, traveled to New York City as part of the Sacramento Urban Search and Rescue Team.

Kelly Richardson and Katrina Harden of the medical records department were called in a couple days later for active duty in the U.S. military reserves.

UC Davis lost one former student in the attacks. Christian Adams, an exchange visitor student in 1988-89, died aboard hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in southwestern Pennsylvania Tuesday. Adams, 37, was the deputy director of the German Wine Institute. He was on his way to San Francisco for a trade show of Germany's 2000 vintage, according to The New York Times.

UC Davis students and others paid their respects to attack victims like Adams with a small memorial, festooned with blue and gold balloons, outside Freeborn Hall.

With the memorials in place, it was important that UC Davis remain open, and continue its mission, Vanderhoef said. "Had we closed, it would have been one more thing that the terrorists could have added to their list of how they disabled this country," he said.

Campus needs dialogue

Vanderhoef has expressed disappointment that a group of young men and women who appeared to be Middle Eastern reportedly were verbally assaulted in a campus building the day of the attacks .

"I think it is important for all of us as a university and a community to be compassionate and caring," he said. "There is no one that is not hurt by this."

The campus gatherings gave students and employees the chance to express their intense emotions of anger, sadness, fear and hope.

Army Lt. Col. Don Hill, the campus's ROTC director, spoke at the forum in Freeborn Hall about his service in Saudi Arabia, where he befriended Muslims and received his own copy of the Quran.

"Please do not hold anything against the Islamic people, the Islamic faith," he said. "That would be an injustice."

Sophomore Sultan Yusufzai, president of the Muslim Student Association, and guests from the Islamic Center of Davis told the crowd gathered at Lake Spafford that the terrorists’ murderous acts sharply contrasted with the peaceful Islamic religion. "I make a plea to the Americans from the Islamic perspective: do not prejudge us," Yusufzai said.

International students, particularly those from the Middle East, have expressed concerns about how they will be treated on campus, said Clay Ballard, director of Services for International Students and Scholars. But, they have been buoyed by the many of support they have heard. About 275 newly arrived students attended the first open forum after the attacks as part of their orientation program.

"We wanted to expose them to the UC Davis Principles of Community and the diversity of the university," Ballard said.

In all, he expects 600 foreign students to arrive by the time school starts Monday. He has so far heard of few delays in student travel plans beyond usual problems in visa processing.

Counseling, support available

Vanderhoef and other campus leaders have urged all students and employees to visit the Academic and Staff Assistance Program or the Counseling Center if they want to discuss their feelings after the attacks.

Counseling Center Director Judy Mack said she has spoken to several faculty and staff members interested in referring students they teach or work with to the center. "People are feeling vulnerable because of their ethnicity or because of what is going on in their mind," she said.

If the United States does go war against its aggressors, the university could begin a new round of support groups, much as it did when the Persian Gulf War broke out, Mack said.

Sally Harvey, director of the Academic and Staff Assistance Program, said she has heard from very few clients wanting to talk specifically about the incidents, though that could change, she noted, as the reality of the attacks sink in.

"The primary need right now for people is to come together as a community," Harvey said.

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