Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Moritz Law and the Impact of the Conflict in Iraq

When considering how best to support students during this time of crisis, Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs Kathy Northern draws a deep breath before replying. "We want so much to be sensitive to the fact that there are wide differences of opinion regarding the U.S. involvement in Iraq. We are working through our options to provide a place for discussion, a forum for airing anxieties, and a means to channel support from both students and staff for the troops and for the Iraqi people." Behind the scenes, there has been a flurry of activity, as Dean Northern and others have reached out to students they know will be affected by being sent overseas, or by concern for a loved one involved in the fighting.

Click photo to access web casts of previous panels

Dean Nancy Rogers says, "At times like this, when feelings are deep and strong, so is interest in attending events to learn about the issues. The College has taken advantage of student interest in world events to help them learn about the role of law." In recent months, the Moritz College sponsored panel discussions on the role of law in the context of terrorism and war. In mid-April, the College will partner with the Mershon Center for a panel on building democracy in Iraq. Says Dean Rogers, "The debates have been intense at times, and so has been the learning."

Administrators hope that the panels will give students room to air their fears, while encouraging them to stretch themselves by confronting the questions raised by the crisis. Frequent panelist and William B. Saxbe Designated Professor of Law Mary Ellen O'Connell has particular insight on points of view presented outside the U.S., and sees these forums as a chance to broaden students' perspectives. She notes, "The major U.S. media outlets – the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN, Newshour with Jim Lehrer – have not examined the position of those finding the war unlawful. The European, Australian, and U.S. regional press, by contrast, have covered the question of the war's legality much better in my view."

Being a member of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps gives Lawrence D. Stanley Professor of Law Greg Travalio a deep understanding of the anxiety facing those students in the military who might be called to serve at any time. As an expert in re-employment rights, and civil relief acts for soldiers and sailors, he can offer practical advice to students facing the special concerns caused by call-ups. He has been sought out on several occasions by enlisted students seeking advice on how best to achieve balance between their military service and their studies. He feels he can speak for all his colleagues when he says, "Everyone realizes, whatever our political beliefs, that our troops are performing a difficult and dangerous job for us, and that they deserve our support and admiration."

Moritz staff
The Moritz Staff "Care Package Brigade"

Staff, looking for a way to contribute, have begun assembling care packages to send to those at the front, and those awaiting deployment. Spearheaded by Assistant to the Dean Cathy Thompson, the campaign shows soldiers that we appreciate their sacrifice. The sixteen staff involved contribute a wide variety of items, from foot powder to puzzles to potato chips. Recipients' names come from students, staff and faculty, as well as those given by ROTC partners on the OSU campus.

Says Thompson, "The key to the campaign is the personal contact. We know we can't connect with everyone serving in the Gulf, but we can reach out to our alumni, our students and those who serve with them. They may have left the College, but they will know that we haven't forgotten them. The enthusiastic emails we receive from the troops is evidence our packages are truly making a difference."

Matt Hover and family
3L Matt Hover and his family, before the Barrister's Ball

For many students and staff, there is inevitable stress that comes with concern for loved ones facing danger. Active-duty Army captain Matt Hover, currently a 3L attending the College through the Army's Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP), worries media coverage of the war acts as a double-edged sword-allowing us to be constantly updated by embedded reporters, but also to glimpse the true horror of war.

Former Marine and 3L Dan Neilsen, whose brother is a Navy medic and whose stepfather is an Army reservist, is concerned about the toll their service is taking on his mother. He says he even feels guilty for enjoying his "normal" life while his family and friends risk their lives thousands of miles away.

The University has provided its own encouragement through letters to faculty and staff from the President's and Provost's offices, offering guidelines for responding effectively to students' stress and need for dialogue. While addressing their specific concerns with counseling and other resources, Provost Ed Ray notes that within the classroom, all faculty need to maintain "an atmosphere that supports free speech and a range of opinions in a climate of civility and mutual respect."