Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: Three Mile Island crisis breeds new culture
Author: Sarah L. Synder

It’s rather ironic that what has been termed one of the worst nuclear accidents in U.S. history should turn into such an educational bonanza. Not only has the Physics department been laboring over the compilation of data of soil samples, but other departments have gotten into the act as well.

Professors Julius and Melissa Kassovic, Lonna Malmsheimer and Daniel Bechtel have joined forces with some interested students and are trying to document and analyze individual and group reactions to the Three Mile Island crisis.

According to American Studies Professor Malmscheimer, the group is examining three aspects of culture that are evident when people are faced with a crisis situation. Malmscheimer added that the team is seeing what historical, experiential and cultural elements people draw upon in order to cope with a situation of duress.

Professor of Sociology Julius Kassovic explained that the group wasn’t sure how to start the field work, since the situation at Three Mile Island was not exactly planned. He and the others agreed, though, that they want to do a more comprehensive analysis of the impact of TMI. At present questionnaires are being distributed to students through the resident advisors to collect data.

Although a great deal of the research is being done within the Carlisle and College community, the group had been soliciting reaction, fantasies and folklore from anyone affected by the TMI crisis. Articles and requests for contributions to the study have been published in the local papers, noted Kassovic.

Malmsheimer pointed out that they are also exploring the possibility of obtaining a grant to continue research.

Bechtel emphasized that the thrust of the fieldwork is being conducted on campus, although all the professors’ phones are equipped with recording taps for any phone interviews. Respondents are told about the tap and are asked if their responses can be included in the survey, noted Malmsheimer.

Kassovic said that the written response has been surprisingly good and that people are taking the time to write poetry and limericks about TMI.

Bechtel said that the study was examining the manner in which people bring together riligion, folklore and cultural heritage and discovering what images are part of the collective consciousness of the population. He noted that, for example, the color green has reappeared over and over in reference to radiation poisoning. Information such as this contributes to the study of the undercurrents of the mind and how they are articulated in society, he added.

A part of the second phase of the study, the groups who could not leave during the crisis, such as county prisoners. Kassovic said that the concepts and jokes of groups were valuable sources of information because what is accepted by the group is more likely to become a part of our cultural inventory.

Because the group is interested in obtaining information while it is still relatively fresh, students and others willing to share their dreams, daydreams, experiences, jokes, stories, insights and other reactions should write Reactions to Reactor Project, Box 167, Dickinson College.