Though Americans may not typically be well informed on current events, Katrina is a household name. Stories about the devastation caused in New Orleans were splashed over every headline and can still be found in the media daily.

Celebrities are out en masse picking up pieces of trash, cuddling cute abandoned animals, and saying…well, those precious and insightful things that celebrities say. “Some of those people [who are looting] have never touched anything in their lives, let them touch those things for once,” quipped Celine Dion with Larry King.
Although you are a compassionate person--you gave a $1 dollar donation at the College Store for goodness sakes--you probably are developing a gag reflex to news on Katrina. But before you shut your mind off completely from the aftermath of this national disaster, ASP Civil Controversy challenges you to actually come up with an informed opinion on one of the deepest issues unearthed during this crisis.

On Wednesday, October 19 the Civil Controversy Speaker Series will be hosting a discussion on the federal response to Hurricane Katrina entitled “Hurricane Katrina And Its Aftermath: Keeping The Victims Afloat,” with professors Bill Lyne and Larry Estrada facilitating. The aim of the forum is to dig deeper into an issue that most students only have a superficial knowledge about.
“I don’t expect it to be focused on Hurricane Katrina [itself]; I expect to evaluate the Government’s response,” said sophomore Antasia Parker, the coordinator for ASP Civil Controversy. The federal response is a pressing issue because it is more than just a death count; it is something that has been unearthed in our institutional system that needs to be evaluated and addressed.

The federal response to Hurricane Katrina came under question due to both the perceived tardiness and inappropriateness of their reaction--according to various sources. For example, according to the St. Petersburg Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday, August 28 in the mid afternoon, President Bush, former FEMA director Michael Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff were warned by the National Hurricane Center’s director, Dr. Max Mayfield, that the levees could be breached as a result of the hurricane.

“We were briefing them way before landfall. It’s not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped.”

The 17th street levee was breached on August 29. Three days later, President Bush issued a statement stating that he didn’t think that anybody anticipated the levees breeches.

Though conservative professors that were invited to facilitate the forum declined, both Parker and sophomore Jessica Tracey— who is the assistant coordinator of ASP Civil Controversy— strongly urge that the discussion will be rooted in unbiased facts and information presented by the facilitators. “We want people to form educated opinions,” said Parker.

An apathetic student body is not acceptable to the ASP Civil Controversy organization. Civil Controversy was created “with a focus on sparking civil discourse on…a wide range of highly politicized or particularly pressing social issues,” according to an AS Productions flyer.

“We want people to question themselves and what they believe,” said Parker. She also stressed that many students follow their parents’ beliefs and don’t challenge their opinions by viewing other sides of an issue.

“We don’t want people to accept one-dimensional, partisan, polarized politics.”

To reach its goal of sparking debate on campus about social issues, the Civil Controversy Speaker Series brings a diverse group of speakers to Western. Last year, Marilyn Cohen and Karen Swallow Prior were featured speakers at “Pro-Life, Pro-Choice: Building Effective Discourse.” Later in the quarter, a debate between Tim Wise and Dinesh D’Souza was sponsored under the title “Race & American Politics: From Affirmative Action to Reparations.”

A timely event is coming up on November 17 entitled “The Supreme Court And Its Impact On You.” It will be a panel discussion led by Western professors, and, perhaps, some members of the community.

So don’t give up on the endless stream of information on Hurricane Katrina. The goal of democracy is to give everyone a voice. Make sure you use yours.

“Hurricane Katrina And Its Aftermath: Keeping The Victims Afloat” is Wednesday, October 19 at 6:30 pm in Communications Facility 115. For more info, contact the Civil Controversy office at 650-2526 or asp.civil.controversy@wwu.edu