In the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and hundreds more injured, members of the Dartmouth community who were in the city at the time have reported in as safe.
Professor of French Roxana Verona and seven students participating in a foreign study program (FSP) in Paris are safe and have been in touch with their families. The students are scheduled to return to the United States on Nov. 28. Other faculty and students who were in the city, some visiting from foreign study programs elsewhere in Europe, are safe as well, the College reports.
College staff sent messages to the FSP students and to undergraduates from Paris to offer campus resources and support, and will continue to monitor the situation.
Associate Professor of English Jeff Sharlet was in Paris Friday during a break from leading Dartmouth’s English FSP in Dublin, working on a story with a photographer friend. Sharlet writes in one of many tweets that the two of them were at a Parisian restaurant on Friday. “We were about to order tartare when a text came in from a source: ‘shooting, be safe.’ ”
“We looked up, puzzled,” Sharlet says. “There had been so many sirens, but we hadn’t been paying attention. Our waiter asked if we wanted to leave. We couldn’t decide. A shooting? There are shootings in cities. But people left. And people walking on the street, looking at their phones, stopped. People locked arms, three, four abreast. We were the last ones, a sidewalk table. Source wrote again. ‘Shooters at large.’ ”
Sharlet and the photographer, apprised that Sharlet’s FSP student Sarah Khatry ’17 was in the city, went to find her and make sure she was safe.
Khatry, now back in Dublin, writes in an email, “I was in Paris on a break from my Dublin FSP at Trinity College. It was my last night in Paris, so I was out late, eating and wandering around the city center.
“I heard first about the shootings in the restaurants from the people around me, and friends from home started texting and updating me. I reached out to Jeff Sharlet. … He was a mile away, but decided to walk to me with his friend, Tanja Hollander, and make sure I made it home all right. None of us understood at the time what was going on—both of us underestimated it. So we ended up stuck, with the transportation shut down, no Uber, no Metro. As soon as we started walking, a man approached and warned us that gunmen were in the direction we were headed. We turned back and hid out in a bar downtown, where the news was playing in French, and waited it out until three in the morning.”
Daniel Benjamin, the Norman E. McCulloch Jr. Director of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding and former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department has been tapped by many media outlets to comment on events as they unfolded in Paris and around the world.
Benjamin co-authored an op-ed in Monday’s New York Times with Visiting Lecturer Steven Simon, a former analyst for the National Security Council, arguing that heightened fears that America is vulnerable to the same kind of attacks seen in Paris are unwarranted.
But the perception of a domestic terrorist threat does have the unfortunate effect of intensifying anti-immigrant rhetoric in U.S. politics, says Benjamin, who served as a counterterrorism adviser to Hillary Clinton during her term as secretary of state.
“To demonize refugees at this point is an enormous mistake,” he says. “America has the ability to do extensive background checks of incoming refugees and an obligation to be part of the response to the refugee crisis in Europe.
“But we are seeing growing Islamophobia in domestic politics again, and real hostility to the notion of having Syrian refugees come here, which to my mind is unacceptable. It is punishing the victims,” Benjamin says.
Ross Virginia, the Myers Professor of Environmental Science, says the COP21, the international climate change conference scheduled to begin in Paris on Nov. 30, will take place as scheduled.
“It will be impacted in the sense that there will be greater security for the international delegates and the 40,000 people involved in the overall conference. It is a major global event. The conference is going ahead, and I think it’s an important statement that the world can come together for global good. The importance of dealing with climate change is a significant challenge, the greatest challenge probably that we face,” Virginia says.
“I think people are concerned and upset, and in sympathy with what has happened in Paris, but are resolved to move ahead with this very important global agenda. … Most international governments and the U.N. are critically concerned about how climate plays into global well-being, terrorism, and the overall wellness of the planet and societies.”
The Nov. 13 terrorist attacks were discussed at a conference held on campus in the following days. Susannah Heschel, the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, hosted the long-planned event, attended by scholars from Europe, Egypt, Syria, Israel, and Pakistan.
Attendees at the conference, titled “The Reception of European Orientalism in the East: Scholarly Encounters in India, Iran, and the Mashriq During the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” were to analyze modern European scholarship on Islam with a focus on the responses to that scholarship by Muslim scholars. But the Paris attacks left Heschel momentarily unsure about how to proceed with the conference.
“I wondered how we could possibly gather for scholarly talks about Islam at a time like this. Yet of course the conference was precisely the correct response at such a moment,” says Heschel. “What the world desperately needs to retain its sanity and to overcome radical ideologies is critical thinking, careful scholarship, and respect for the life of the mind.”
The administration has sent a follow-up message to all seven of the students enrolled in the Paris FSP, and to the undergraduate students who are from Paris, to offer campus resources and support. The dean on call, counselor on call, and residential life staff are ready to assist them, and other students who may be concerned. The students in Paris are scheduled to return to the U.S. on Nov. 28.
John Tansey, executive director of Dartmouth’s Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education, says crisis management is part of the planning that goes into all of the college’s off-campus programs.
“Planning for potential crises takes place well before a given program starts,” Tansey says. “As crises arise, good communication is of the utmost importance. Staff in my office and others across campus regularly monitor breaking news and events as they unfold around the world. Whenever a crisis impacts, or has the potential to impact, one or more of our programs, we immediately reach out to Dartmouth personnel in affected areas. At the same time, staff in a variety of on-campus resources are mobilized to assist with support and outreach efforts, monitor events, and coordinate decision-making.”
That planning went into effect in Paris on Friday, Tansey says. “When we learned of the attacks in Paris, my office’s initial communications were with Dartmouth’s onsite faculty director and local program coordinator. We were able to quickly confirm that they and the students on the FSP were safe.”
In addition, he says, students and parents “had access to valuable, timely security information and alerts by email through Dartmouth’s membership with International SOS, a medical and travel security assistance company.”