Police and parents are outraged after prestigious New York University reportedly asked students to “hypothetically” plot a terrorist attack for a course on transnational terrorism. Just weeks after the most recent large-scale terrorist attack was thwarted in New York City, many are saying it is a slap in the face to those who have risked and given their lives to defend the country from extremists.
Noting that many of the world’s most notorious terrorists, from Anwar al-Awlaki to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, spent formative years in American universities, the New York Post writes:
For the assignment, [Professor Marie-Helen Maras] — who has a Ph.D. from Oxford and is also an associate professor at SUNY Farmingdale — instructs her pupils to consider all aspects of the attack.
“In your paper, you must describe your hypothetical attack and what will happen in the aftermath of the attack,” Maras wrote in the syllabus obtained by The Post.
They must factor in the methods of execution, sources of funding, number of operatives needed and the target government’s reaction, according to the paper’s outline.
At the same time, students must realistically stay within their chosen terror group’s “goals, capabilities, tactical profile, targeting pattern and operational area,” the syllabus states.
Given the detail required — and possibly concerned that the how-to terror manuals could land in the wrong hands — Maras warns that each page of a student’s paper must bear the disclaimer: “This is a hypothetical scenario for a university course on transnational terrorism.”
When told of the term paper, one ranking police officer who lost coworkers on 9/11 called it “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” [Emphasis added]
The New York Post source added that he is “disgusted,” and that the course “flies in the face of the 11 years of hard work the NYPD has done in tracking down terrorists to the far reaches of the globe to make sure they never strike again.”
“What is this, we have our students do the work for the terrorists?” he asked.
The NYPD has not officially released a statement, however, and the professor is standing by her course.
“The exercise is meant to prepare students for the field, to prepare them for careers in intelligence, policing, counterterrorism,” she remarked. “This is a grad-level assignment for a grad-level course.”
She also seemed perturbed that those offended by the exercise went to the press, instead of approaching her directly.
“Why didn’t the police call me if they have concerns?” she asked.
This post has been updated.