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Interview With Brian Copenhaver

Aired November 3, 2001 - 15:21   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: The September 11 attacks have sparked protests, rallies, and turmoil on some U.S. college campuses. Well, now the attacks are effecting one school's curriculum. UCLA is offering new undergraduate courses in response to the attacks, and get this, including "War, Terror and Violence: Reflecting on Machiavelli," "Understanding the Unthinkable and Incomprehensible," "Fictions of Terror Versus Real Terror," and "Poetry and Loss." That's a good one, there.

Brian Copenhaver, a provost of UCLA's College of Letters and Science joins us now to talk about this some more. Good morning. How are you? I should say good afternoon.

BRIAN COPENHAVER, PROVOST, UCLA: Thank you. Glad to be here.

HARRIS: First of all, I have to ask you about that "Poetry and Loss." That one jumps right out at us. What's the idea behind this one?

COPENHAVER: Well, the idea is to connect all parts of UCLA's curriculum on behalf of our students with the experience of September 11 and poetry, of course, is a thing that's regularly taught by departments of English, French, Spanish and so on. And so the person whose doing that course had the idea of using a particular kind of poetry to try to make sense of the catastrophe of September 11.

HARRIS: What is the mission, then, behind these courses? Is it to help people understand or to cope with it or is it actually to take some lessons and lessons that will be, I guess, perpetuated from years on end?

COPENHAVER: Well, I think you, I think all three things you said are quite, are quite right. It's to create understanding, it's to give people a way to talk in a focused conversation about this terrible event. But it's also to maybe carry away some lessons that will help us as we deal with these things in the future.

After all, these are -- these students at UCLA are young people. They're wonderful young people. They've made a big transition into the University in this fall term. But at the same time, what's happening is that they've made a transition into world history. Remember that these students are people who were about six years old when the wall came down, so that this is their first really big world historical event and we're trying to give them a way to get a handle on it.

HARRIS: You know, it's interesting you bring that up, we talked about that earlier this week, as a matter of fact. The idea that encyclopedia manufacturers are -- publishers, rather, have not got to change so much of what they've actually got out there, you know, that's in circulation right now. Same thing with history books across the country. And now you're actually doing this in a proactive manner. This is very interesting.

Is the idea behind this, was it something that the University came up with? Or was this something that was being requested by the student body?

COPENHAVER: No, we had the advantage of about two weeks of preparation, because UCLA's fall term didn't start until September 25. So, when the tragedy happened in New York, we decided that we wanted to give our students a better way to handle all this when they came back. So, the idea actually came out of discussions with the University faculty and the University administration. But right from the beginning, involving the leaders -- the key people from the student government, student leadership.

And then the planning, the planning for the course, courses, proceeded for about two weeks, and we're very happy to say that 50 faculty volunteered, stepped forward, and agreed to do these courses without compensation.

And then the student response has been emphatic.

HARRIS: Really? No kidding?

COPENHAVER: Yeah.

HARRIS: That is great.

COPENHAVER: We're very, very proud of our faculty and proud of our students.

HARRIS: Well, let me ask you this on the way out here: is this something totally novel or unique only to UCLA? Or do you -- have you noticed this sort of thing happening in other campuses across the country as well?

COPENHAVER: I'm not aware of anything this large or systematic, but of course universities all across the country are trying to respond to these horrible events on behalf of their students.

HARRIS: Brian Copenhaver, provost, UCLA. Got to tell you, you had me on that Machiavelli.

COPENHAVER: Great.

HARRIS: Sounds like a fascinating topic. Thank you very much.

COPENHAVER: Read the book.

HARRIS: Yes. And good luck. We'll keep an eye on that and see how that turns out. Good luck to you.

COPENHAVER: Thank you, Leon.

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