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Spring 2006 • Volume 12, Issue 2

Unleashing empathyProfessor receives honorary degree

Unleashing empathy

by Aimée Roy

DogsAs students file into class and find their seats, they are greeted by a friendly and curious basset hound named Cydney. Several students pet Cydney as he sniffs his way through the room. Finally, Cydney settles in and lies on his side while a few students sit on the floor next to him and rub his belly. Cydney basks in the attention.

The treatment Cydney receives in the classroom is in sharp contrast to the treatment many animals receive each day at the hands of their owners. As Lauren Malmberg of the Peoria Animal Welfare Shelter (PAWS), and Kitty Yanko, director of education for the Peoria Humane Society, begin their presentation, the tone in the classroom abruptly shifts from light and fun to somber and sympathetic.

“An 11-year-old boy strangles a cat, and no one does anything. ‘Boys will be boys,’ they say. Two years later, the same boy strangles a 4-year-old child—now he’s a murderer,” explains Malmberg. “You have to take animal abuse seriously so you can stop the cycle of violence.”

Dr. Ray Zarvell ‘69, executive director of student development and health services, invited the two women to visit his classes and talk about animal abuse as a way to sensitize his students. “Many people who mistreat animals also mistreat humans. I talked to the folks at PAWS to see if they would come out, and it just so happens that they have a program to do just that,” says Zarvell.

The presentation was given in ETE 225­­—human development, a required class for education majors, and EHS 120—a class that introduces new Bradley students to campus life. The presentation stimulated discussion about discrimination, hate crimes, and other forms of abuse. Later, Zarvell’s EHS 120 class watched an edited version of The Laramie Project, the story of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was beaten to death. The class then discussed the death of James Byrd, Jr., a black man in Texas who was brutally dragged behind a truck until he was decapitated.

“I chose animals as the vehicle to introduce the topic of hate crimes because they elicit many different kinds of emotional responses from students without all of the human ‘drama’ that can often cloud the issue of human violence,” says Zarvell. He hopes that his students who become teachers will incorporate empathy education into their classrooms.

Malmberg and Yanko speak regularly to workers throughout the Peoria area whose occupations might require them to enter a home: social workers, postal carriers, meter readers, and police or probation officers. “Animal abuse is often the first indication that there is dysfunction in the family. Our goal is to make you understand the connection between animal abuse and human violence,” says Malmberg, showing graphic photos of animals that have been abused in the Peoria community. Malmberg explains the types of abuse in which animals fall victim: neglect, which involves not giving the animal proper food, shelter, or medical care; and cruelty, or intentional physical abuse. PAWS investigates more than 600 reports of cruelty or neglect each year. The dogs brought into the classroom are part of a group of animals that are taken to nursing homes as visitors and “animal therapists” for seniors. The animals are chosen for their gentleness.

Erin Kleiber ‘07, a music education major from Rock Island, says the experience was eye opening. “I had never heard of pet hoarding, and as a teacher, I will be more aware of what to look for in students who might live in a home where animal abuse and possibly human violence is a problem,” says Kleiber.

Malmberg says the three main reasons people abuse animals are because they are insensitive and have lost a sense of empathy, because they learn they can get away with it, or because some grow to enjoy abusing animals. “Virtually every mass murderer has a history of abusing animals as a child,” says Malmberg, “so if you see someone abusing an animal, please report it.”

For more information, visit peoriahs.org or call PAWS at 309-494-8911.

 

William MasseyIvy League professor receives honorary degree

“Math was just a cup of tea to me,” laughs Dr. William S. Massey ’41, the recent recipient of an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters from Bradley in recognition of his 42 years of teaching math in the Ivy League. He taught 32 years at Yale and 10 years at Brown. After graduating third in his class at Peoria Central High School, Massey attended Bradley for two years on scholarship. Once he had taken all math classes offered, he left for the University of Chicago to complete his undergraduate studies and his master’s. Massey earned his Ph.D. from Princeton and has had 27 books published from his extensive math research. Adds Massey, “So many people have math anxiety. I was just one of the lucky ones, and Bradley prepared me well for going on to other universities.”


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