In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Ernani J. DeAraujo ’03 founded a student committee aimed at addressing what he says is a lack of course offerings on political violence.
“With Harvard graduates being at the vanguard of the political, academic, and economic worlds, we feel that the College should prepare us to deal with the troubling issues stemming from the 21st century’s first war,” DeAraujo wrote in an e-mail he sent to several groups encouraging students to apply.
An Undergraduate Council member, DeAraujo was a candidate for the council’s presidency until Sunday, when he dropped out of the race.
A Social Studies concentrator writing his thesis on political violence in Colombia, DeAraujo said he first saw the need for such a committee while working as a research assistant to Associate Professor of Government Louise M. Richardson. Richardson said that, to the best of her knowledge, her classes on terrorism have been the only such ones offered at Harvard in the past 20 years.
Richardson said there are many opportunities for scholarship on political violence.
“There is a large literature on terrorist movements around the world, on the causes and conduct of terrorism and on the efforts of various governments to formulate effective counter-terrorism policies,” Richardson said.
She added that she has seen “a dramatic growth” in student interest in the field since the terrorist attacks.
The group’s steering committee has outlined several goals, including compiling a booklet of courses that teach information about terrorism.
DeAraujo said the committee hopes to persuade other classes to incorporate information about political violence as well as suggest new College courses on terrorism that are similar to those offered by other colleges.
The steering committee is selecting members based on their time availability, their academic backgrounds or interests and their desire to evaluate the Harvard curriculum.
The fledgling committee has only just begun its interactions with professors and plans on eventually approaching the Dean of Undergraduate Education.
At this time, DeAraujo’s committee, which is not affiliated with the Undergraduate Council, does not have any monetary sponsoring.
“We will not need money right now,” DeAraujo said. “And when we do, we should be able to raise it through student groups or the [council].”
Oliver B. Libby ’03 said he applied to the committee because its mission appealed to him. Libby is a special concentrator in National Security.
“The group’s mission appealed to me as a constructive, not critical, re-evaluation of the undergraduate course offerings,” Libby said.
“The topic of terrorism has become one of a lot of interest.”