Symposium highlights KSU research, addresses hypervigilance after Sept. 11

Jackie Valley

Participants of the 2008 Presidential Symposium on Research, “Hypervigilance: Fact, Fiction or Fault?” listen to a presentation during an afternoon breakout session on school violence. Other topics included public health, sexual violence and trauma. Katie

Credit: DKS Editors

If attacks like those on Sept. 11 occur every few years, the probability of a person who does not live in a war zone being killed during his or her lifetime by international terrorism is one in 80,000.

The probability of an American being killed in an automobile accident during his or her lifetime? One in 80.

These are the statistics keynote speaker John Mueller, professor of political science at Ohio State, provided to begin examining the topic of “Hypervigilance: Fact, Fiction or Fault?” at Kent State’s first Presidential Symposium on Research yesterday. The university hope to make the event annual.

President Lester Lefton, whose ideas led to the event, said the “launch is reaffirming of Kent State’s commitment to academic excellence.”

In addition, Lefton said the symposium addresses real world problems related to mass casualties and hypervigilance that affect people every day.

“It’s almost impossible to check the day’s news without hearing of such an event,” he said.

Daniel Flannery, director of the Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence, said the about 300 people who attended the event represented varying fields, including law enforcement, researchers, education, social work and government agencies.

Flannery said the symposium highlights the “quality and diversity of research being done at Kent State and the importance on the community,” adding that all the panelists had a connection to the university.

Participants attended breakout sessions related to hypervigilance in between listening to the event’s two keynote speakers – Mueller and Brian Flynn, associate director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress. Mueller is the author of Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them.

During his speech, Mueller said despite worries that terrorists may acquire an atomic bomb, terrorists must overcome 20 variables in the process. Assuming they have a one in three chance of overcoming each barrier, the terrorists have a one in about 3.5 billion chance of success.

“The very point is the probability of this catastrophic event is incredibly small,” he said. “At some point, catastrophic events become so unlikely that it’s worth not worrying about them.

“I’m not sure where that is; maybe it’s one in 3.5 billion.”

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].