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Release: Jan. 15, 2002

Sept. 11 Attacks Prompt Talks On Civil Liberties, Artistic Expression

The Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry at the University of Iowa has organized "Infinite Respect, Enduring Dignity: Voices and Visions of the September Attacks," a Jan. 25-26 conference, an artistic and academically-inspired public discussion on the terrorist attacks and its impact on our political, religious, and artistic climate. The conference takes place at the University Theatre Building and runs from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; it resumes Saturday at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. The entire event is free and open to the public.

At the conference, Rep. James Leach will give the keynote address. Choreographer Bill T. Jones will speak on the role of arts in times of national tragedy prior to his Saturday evening performance at Hancher Auditorium. Mary Gilchrist, director of the UI Hygienic Laboratory, will address the topic of self-resilience and bioterrorism. James Allen McPherson, creative writing professor at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, takes on the use of humor in the wake of the attacks, and Alan Sener, associate professor of dance, will perform a new dance work. The University Theater lobby will house an exhibit of original artistic and cinematic works inspired by the tragedy and gathered from across the state.

"Though we all come with unique perspectives, we share our grief. Gathering together with poets, politicians, lawyers and religious leaders may allow us to find that moment of communal reflection that we all so dearly need," said Susan Zickmund, conference-co director and director of the Graduate Certificate Program at the Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry.

"The conference was organized with two goals in mind," explained Merrie Snell, conference co-director. "First, to provide information and stimulate conversation about the current crisis among a diverse population of scholars and laypeople in the state of Iowa and second, to enact a richer, more complete understanding of our human experience of -- our humanistic responses to -- these events by combining academic with artistic content."

The above named guests will be joined by discussions on civil liberties, human rights, and just war by UI College of Law professor Adrien Wing, and visiting international law lecturer Christopher Rossi. Christopher Merrill, director, International Writing Program, will contribute a personal literary piece about the attacks and will present similar responses from international writers. University of Pittsburgh professor Gordon Mitchell will discuss self-censorship and the crisis. David Skorton, UI vice president for research and interim director of University Relations, will give introductory remarks on Friday. Discussions on Saturday will begin with comments from Iowa City Mayor Ernie Lehman.

Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders will contribute to the two-day conference, as will Steve Thunder McGuire, associate professor, art education and art history, whose video documentary will explore local reactions. In all, more than 60 invited guests, participants, and artists will contribute to the discussions.

The conference is organized by eight faculty and various master's of arts students, and is co-sponsored by Humanities Iowa, the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Stanley Foundation, International Programs and 14 additional UI sponsors.

A complete conference schedule is viewable at

Participants listing is at