Teach-in session at Quinnipiac provides scholarly input about Russia-Ukraine war

Amanda Undari, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University students, faculty members and Hamden locals gathered in the Echlin Center on March 1, to discuss the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

Held both in-person and on Zoom, the event featured five panelists and moderator Christopher Ball, who is the Istvan Szechenyi chair in international economics and director of the Central European Institute.

Quinnipiac University scholars (left to right) Mohammad Elahee, Anat Biletzki, Frederick Scholl, Sean Duffy and Gedeon Werner discussed the economic, ethical, political and cybersecurity impacts of the war in Ukraine. (Alex Bayer)

The discussion was co-sponsored by the provost’s series on faculty scholarship and engagement. It aimed to utilize the knowledge of the professors to better inform the public about the economic, ethical, political and cybersecurity impacts that the war in Ukraine will cause all around the world.

“Our goal is to lay a foundation for all of us to better understand and to better act,” said Khalilah Brown-Dean, associate provost and professor of political science. “And the hope is that this will be the start of a conversation but also the start of ongoing action.”

Ball began the teach-in session with a brief overview of Russian and Ukrainian history.

“(Vladimir) Putin often claims the West promised not to expand NATO, but we did anyway,” Ball said. “And he claims that this has been an existential threat to Russia.”

After providing the audience with a foundation of knowledge about where the Russia-Ukraine tensions originated, Ball then turned the conversation over to the panelists. They each gave a five-to-10-minute explanation of their perspective of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

“The current Russian-Ukraine affairs of war is not about Ukraine,” said Gedeon Werner, Novak Family Polish Chair. “This is not about recreating the Soviet Union, it goes well beyond that. It’s about recreating the Russian empire.”

Gedeon Werner, Novak Family Endowed Polish Chair, spoke about Russia’s motivations in invading Ukraine. (Alex Bayer)

Sean Duffy, professor of political science and director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute said he “has a different lens to offer.” He quoted philosopher Immanuel Kant and commented on his ideas about perpetual peace. 

 “A league of Republican governments, governments that are guided by the people, could actually lead to a general peace throughout the system,” Duffy said. 

Duffy emphasized the importance of democracy in avoiding hasty decisions that will affect a nation’s people. He said that because decisions are made through many people and longer processes in a democracy, war is often avoided. 

“I think this is going to be a defining moment for Ukraine and its population that will lead to and already has led to incredible unity in favor of a Western, pro-democratic European alignment,” Duffy said. “It may also be a defining moment for the Russian population that would like to consider itself modern, pro-democracy and even European, even if its full expression of democracy is being curtailed at home by the Putin regime.” 

Offering a more technical perspective, Frederick Scholl, associate teaching professor and director of the cybersecurity program, framed his input from a cybersecurity standpoint.

“(Russia is) the number one leading criminal organization in the world and we’re training students to defend against the constant attacks that they’re subjecting this country and many other countries to,” Scholl said. 

Scholl compared the cyber war on information to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor because it was a catalyst for World War II. He said the same thing could happen with a lack of cybersecurity.

“Let’s say Russia attacks some Ukraine assets with cyber weapons,” Scholl said. “Those weapons are going to leak out into other parts of the world.”

Anat Biletzki, professor of philosophy and women and gender studies, (Alex Bayer)

Anat Biletzki, professor of philosophy and women and gender studies described herself as the granddaughter of a Crimean, an activist and a person who “does philosophy,” not a philosopher.

“I don’t question the evil that we are witnessing coming from Russia’s Putin, I want to emphasize that,” Biletzki said. 

Biletzki’s points focused on “simplistic stories and simplistic attributions of identities.”

“(Vladimir) Lenin didn’t invent the Ukraine, but that identity has been internally conflicted,” Biletzki said. “It’s not just one identity, it’s been variably placed geographically, it has been self-questioning for centuries. Its relationship with Russian identity has also been questioning, conflicted, and very familial and familiar.”

Mohammed Elahee, professor of international business and native of Bangladesh, began by detailing his experience with war in his home country.

“I have seen the brutalities of war by the time I was five years old,” Elahee said. “And it is still with me. War creates animals out of good people.”

Elahee discussed the negative implications of Russia’s war with Ukraine. He described Putin’s timing as “striking while the iron is hot,” implying that the leader purposely attacked during colder months to ensure that restrictions on Russian gas hit surrounding countries harder. 

“When the gas prices go up, we will all suffer,” Elahee said.

I’m just trying to learn about (the Russia-Ukraine crisis) more, that’s why I’m here tonight. Education and knowledge is power in a situation like this.

— Kelly Barr, first-year business student

Elahee made the point that Egypt will suffer because of restrictions on wheat, showing how restrictions on exports from Ukraine will result in struggling countries all over the world.

“A lot of people are talking about oil, I’m somewhat surprised that people are not talking much about wheat,” Elahee said. “Remember Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe.”

The meeting opened up for a Q&A session after the panelists finished speaking, which lasted until the end of the evening.

The event drew lots of interest from students, and many expressed their eagerness to learn more about the tense relations between Russia and Ukraine.

“I try to read up on the news, but I think it’s great to have an event with credible professors to find out what’s really going on (between Russia and Ukraine),” said Luke Brown, a first-year economics major. 

Also interested in learning more about the war in Ukraine is Kelly Barr, a first-year business undeclared major.

“I’m just trying to learn about (the Russia-Ukraine crisis) more, that’s why I’m here tonight,” Barr said. “Education and knowledge is power in a situation like this.”

Junior public relations major Madison Morris said she believes the panel discussion should have been mandatory for all students to attend.

“I think that it should honestly be a required event because I feel like so many people — especially at this school — we’re just in such a secluded area and we’re very tucked away from these issues,” Morris said. “It’s important to be informed about what’s going on in the rest of the world.”