a Thursday night in October nearly two dozen students and
community members file into Humanities 133 to listen to a first-hand
account of life in post-war Iraq.
Welcome to Behavioral Social Sciences 277: "The United States
and the World in the 21st Century."
There's no required reading list. No tests or papers. The new course
raises larger questions than "Will that be on the final exam?"
The Thursday night lectures, each concluding with a question-and-answer
session, are bringing the on- and off-campus community information
on topics related to the war on terrorism and creating a forum for
attendees to share their concerns and opinions about evolving international
Students may opt to take the class for two units of credit, or join
faculty, staff and the general public, all of whom are welcome to
attend free of charge.
Judy Bonhiver, who recently joined the staff of SFSU's Marian Wright
Edelman Institute, attended the lectures faithfully. "The intellectual
diversity and depth of knowledge of the faculty is just awesome,"
she says. "I don't think they could find a better group of
speakers all in one place anywhere else in the country."
From History Professor Jerald Combs' "The War on Terrorism:
How We Got Here" to Speech and Communication Studies Professor
Joseph Tuman's "The Language of Terrorism," 25 faculty
members in BSS and the colleges of Humanities and Business are sharing
their insights with attendees. The focus of the lectures shifts
across the globe, touching on nation-building in Iraq, European/U.S.
relations, Middle East politics, drug wars in South America, Chinese/Korean
relations and the war on terrorism in Africa.
fall's BSS 277 class and public lecture series will be on the 2004
U.S. Presidential election. You can preview the series at a faculty
panel discussion sponsored by the College of Behavioral and Social
Sciences on March 18 at 5:30 p.m. For information: http://bss.sfsu.edu
Tonight's guest, Professor Gary Selnow, is the founder of
World Internet Resources for Education and Development (WiRED), a
nonprofit organization that uses computer-based technology to bring
health information to people in developing countries.
Last spring, backed by funding from the U.S. State Department, Selnow
traveled to Iraq to assess the needs of the country's medical community.
He found medical textbooks horribly out of date and libraries stripped
clean by looters. On a return trip in June, Selnow and WiRED volunteers
installed medical information centers at four teaching hospitals,
bringing computer networks and an extensive collection of CD-ROMs
packed with health care information to more than 2,500 faculty and
students in Baghdad and the surrounding region. Although Iraq does
not have Internet access right now, each computer is ready to take
visitors online once repairs are made to a fiber optic cable.
Danger was always present on the trip. A meeting with the Ministry
of Health ended abruptly when military police ushered Selnow and his
fellow volunteers out a back door. Someone had placed a bomb inside
the main entrance.
"All that's happening there goes against rational thought,"
the professor tells the audience.
While various factions continue to cause chaos in the country, Selnow
feels uplifted by the spirit of students and doctors in Iraq's universities.
He points to a computer installation at Al Kadhymia Teaching Hospital
in Iraq. The facility had been heavily looted. The only room with
enough electrical outlets for 10 computer work stations had been reduced
by looters to a mess of broken desks, shattered glass and garbage.
Selnow was disheartened, but returned two days later to find the room
A group of 20 Iraqi doctors had heard about Selnow and his computers.
At the end of their rounds, the doctors grabbed mops and shovels and
spent an entire night clearing the way for WiRED.
After decades of being cut off from new developments in health care,
"they really wanted this information so that they could do better
for their patients," Selnow says.
Effective assistance programs are like ropes, the professor says.
"You cannot push them. The people must pull for themselves. You
have to involve Iraqis at every step, use existing structures and
ask that [people] give back."
Selnow found the Iraqi doctors didn't need to be reminded of the latter:
"They told us, ‘When we get online we want to share our
insights with the world.'"