As televisions across campus tuned in to hear the news of Osama bin Laden’s death on May 1, students at Phillips Academy reacted with cheers and political debates, mirroring reactions around the world.
This past week clubs and classes featured discussions on the mixture of responses to the news of Bin Laden’s passing.
On Wednesday, May 12, Phillips Academy’s Model UN Club hosted a meeting for students to discuss the significance of Bin Laden’s death on foreign policy. They debated the future of Pakistan’s and the United States’ diplomatic relations.
Andrew Mitchell ‘11, Vice President of Model UN, said “I think [that] Model UN provides an important outlet on campus to discuss major international events like Bin Laden’s death.”
“Our meeting today has forced students to question their initial conclusions and responses to his death, and to see the issue from new angles,” he continued.
Students at the meeting discussed the United States’ actions leading up to the assassination of Bin Laden. They also analyzed Pakistan’s alleged inability to capture a criminal living near Pakistani barracks.
Members also brainstormed ideas about how potential United Nation members might react to a number of hypothetical situations created by the group.
“The method of Bin Laden’s passing is also a great topic for Model UN, considering the US assassinated someone on Pakistani soil without any sort of authorization. This is prime subject matter for Model UN,” said Mitchell.
Arabic and History classes also discussed the significance of the news in the days following the announcement.
Christopher Jones, Instructor in History, discussed the event with his History 310 class. The discussion centered on the ethics of the decision to kill bin Laden, the historical significance and the impact on foreign relations.
“Part of our job as students of history is to set events like bin Laden’s death in their proper context. Engaging in reasoned discussions of events like this helps us avoid great pitfalls in the study of history, like unabashed mythmaking or uncritical moral outrage,” wrote Jones in an email to the Phillipian.
Students reflected on bin Laden’s death within the context of American interventionism and the Civil Rights movement.
“We had been learning about how people reacted to the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King’s assassination, [and] Malcolm X’s assassination. So it was kind of interesting to draw parallels between this event and events in history,” said Trey Jennings ’12, a student in Jones’ class.
“This is obviously a monumental event and I think it is important to take the time to observe others peoples reactions to it.”
Since President Obama announced the news to the nation late Sunday night, students recalled experiences in their dorms after sign-in. Student reflections to the news varied from ecstatic to disgusted.
Charles Horner ’12 said, “I was just making sure that [all freshmen] were in their rooms when Uday [Singh ‘12] came running into my room. He yelled to me that Osama was dead, and it took me a few seconds to realize what he was saying”
“It seemed like [Obama] was just forcing all the students in the world to put off their work. But our freshmen couldn’t participate because they were asleep with lights out,” he continued.
Jennings said, “Personally, I was happy when [bin Laden] died. I celebrated. I ran around. I partied. While death is always sad, the death of one of the most evil people in the world is something to be celebrated.”
Students changed Facebook statuses and Twitter updates to convey their enthusiasm. Some students found the public displays of celebration poor taste given the cause, a death.
Eliana Kwartler ’12 said, “I just don’t think that people should be cheering and setting their statuses on Facebook saying ‘YEA HES DEAD!’ I just think that that’s disgusting.”
“I understand that Osama Bin Laden was a horrible person, but a death is a death and it is not something to be rejoiced,” she continued.