9/11 and the Academy

Survey of private college presidents shows that while curriculums have changed in the wake of the attacks, campus budgets largely haven't.
September 8, 2006

College coursework has a more global focus and international exchanges are more difficult to coordinate after the attacks of September 11, according to a survey released today of more than 130 college presidents and high-ranking administrators conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. 

The survey, “September 11: Effects on My Campus 5 Years Later,” showed that nearly three in four respondents said that 9/11 has had "little to no effect" on their campus budgets, although about 12 percent said it had a "major effect."

One of the ways in which college budgets could take a hit is through technology updates required to comply with the federal Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which is intended to allow law enforcement officials to access phone lines for tapping purposes. The legislation has been the subject of some concern among those in academe. One survey commenter said CALEA is "devastating in terms of potential expense and other complications," though only 13 percent said the legislation has had a significant effect on their campus.

David L. Warren, NAICU's president, introduced the survey results Thursday during a panel on higher education and 9/11 that is part of a four-day Pace University conference on the aftereffects of the terrorist attacks. While the survey doesn't claim to be a statistically valid sample, Warren said the results and accompanying comments are relevant for discussion.

Warren said he found it striking that more than 65 percent of those surveyed said September 11 had at least a moderate effect on international faculty exchange, and that even more said that foreign student enrollments were affected -- negatively, according to the comments listed. "These are substantial numbers," Warren said. "It's what we sensed was happening, and it shows that the visa policies and the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) program slowed down the process."

SEVIS is the system used to track foreign students and host programs during their time in the United States. The State Department has said problems with foreign student visa applicants had been solved, but some survey responders complained about the hours of work put toward new administrative tasks. 

Responders were split over whether study abroad programs have taken a hit since 9/11. The need for student exchanges has been a popular topic of discussion since the attacks.

More than half of those surveyed said 9/11 at least moderately played a role in curricular changes, with some saying that they have noticed a significant increase in student interest in foreign policy and international relations courses, and topics relating to homeland security.

"Seldom does an event have this kind of staying power on colleges and their curriculum," Warren said. "Usually that's one of the slowest things to change."

Eighty percent of college presidents and administrators said 9/11 had little to no effect on academic freedom issues, with fewer than one percent saying it has had a "transformative" effect. One commenter noted that faculty are wary of opinions they express about the government, and another mentioned that September 11 has caused students to be more openly patriotic.

Some presidents reported having beefed up their emergency preparedness programs and hiring risk managers since 9/11. One commenter at a college that has installed panic buttons in classrooms said faculty and staff are "very concerned about their safety."

Other associations have also reported on how 9/11 has changed their constituent colleges. The American Association of Community Colleges released a report two years ago that found that colleges had either begun or added courses relating to security training, and had seen a spike in demand for foreign language classes.


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