BERKELEY -- When Steven Weber refers to "the event," the meaning is clear.
Weber teaches UC Berkeley students about national and international security, so Sept. 11, 2001, is the only event he could mean. If any academic discipline was revolutionized that day, it was Weber's.
"Events like that do have a galvanizing power on intellectual discussion," said Weber, a political economist and international-relations expert. "Those events do matter."
Weber felt the effects of Sept. 11 more than most of his UC Berkeley colleagues. He was in New York City that day, doing periodic work for a Rockefeller Plaza foundation, and watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
For better and for worse, the attacks jolted the security-studies field out of its complacency, Weber said. For better, because experts had underestimated Muslim extremists' anger toward the United States. For worse, because many of those same experts have turned a blind eye toward other important issues since Sept. 11.
"People tend to be attracted to problems that are ascendant," Weber said. "After the event, maybe there was too much attention paid to terrorism."
Few disciplines were affected by the attacks more than security studies, but nearly all college departments have lasting examples of how Sept. 11 influenced their curricula and enrollments.
At UC Berkeley, music classes focused on the Middle East and Islam are in high demand. Nearly 100 students
"I think people are just realizing that that's a part of the world they know very little about," he said.
Student interest has driven much of the growth in classes tied to Sept. 11. Arabic programs have boomed, as have courses about Islam.
Before 2001, experts on Buddhism and Hinduism were in demand at colleges and universities, said Barbara McGraw, a Saint Mary's College professor and director of the school's Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism. After the attacks, most schools became more interested in Islam, she said.
"It was a wake-up call (because) we don't know anything about Muslims," McGraw said. And "I think 9/11, as horrible as it was and still is, gave real urgent attention to the issue of interreligious understanding and its relationship to peace."
Incoming college freshman were about 8 years old when the attacks took place, but undergraduates are aware of the event and surrounding issues, professors said. Terrorism, violence and related subjects are more relevant to students than they used to be, instructors said.
Students in Claire Kramsch's linguistics classes at UC Berkeley, for example, seem to connect better now with lessons on how historical events are portrayed in the media, she said. Sept. 11 has proved to be a useful teaching tool in the "Language and Power" class, she said.
"I deal with the icon of 9/11 as a myth," said Kramsch, who helped the Modern Language Association write a 2007 report on teaching language in the post-Sept. 11 world. "It means much more than the numerals. It's a shorthand for expressing all sorts of things."
Terrorism also has influenced science and engineering research, much of which relies on federal grants. Most of those grants are contingent upon the recipients not using the research "to support terrorism," said Robert Price, UC Berkeley's associate vice chancellor for research.
The clauses are not as clear-cut as they sound. Say, for example, a school uses a grant to pay an honorarium to a speaker from another country. If that speaker later rebels against his government, could he be deemed a terrorist by the U.S. government?
"We refuse to accept any of those clauses," Price said. "For a while, it created a real problem."
A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, declined to speak about defense-related grants or the antiterrorism clauses.
Some professors had their professional lives turned upside down by the terrorist attacks.
Michael Nacht, who was among President Clinton's top arms-control advisers, has been called back into presidential service twice since 2001, when he was dean of UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy.
Nacht said the attacks have seriously altered the tone of his classes on security policy, but he also said students are more aware of security issues than they used to be.
"There's so much on the front burner that's a derivative of 9/11," said Nacht, who also has served presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. "If they're at all attentive to what's going on in the world, they can't help but feel the effects."
Matt Krupnick covers higher education. Contact him at 510-208-6488. Follow him at Twitter.com/MattKrupnick.