College of Law Students Respond to Mock Terrorism Threats in Counter-terrorism Simulations, March 30

On Friday, March 30, the University of Utah College of Law will host a series of three counter-terrorism simulations designed to simulate lifelike, high-intensity situations involving legal and ethical dilemmas.  The simulations will be streamed live at from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Amos Guiora, a Professor of Law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law and retired officer in the Israel Defense Forces, first embraced immersive simulations as a teaching tool 10 years ago, while training Israeli soldiers in time- sensitive decision-making paradigms predicted on imperfect information. He believes that simulations are effective for law students because they require students, each of whom plays an assigned role as an political leader, government official or law enforcement officer, to consider the potential impact of their actions as they are confronted with terrorism scenarios. In the exercises, events unfold in real time, information is fragmentary, bystander reports are contradictory, and new events—and new threats—continue to appear at a furious pace, forcing participants to adapt and adjust their approach on the fly.

 This year, the 22 students enrolled in Guiora’s counter-terrorism class will participate in a shorter, more focused simulation event that differs dramatically from previous exercises. The three-hour simulation builds on four mini-simulations conducted over the course of the semester that emphasize teamwork, decision making, intelligence gathering/analysis and advocacy/articulation. Emphasizing those four skills—in the context of legal, policy, intelligence and operational dilemmas—presents a unique pedagogical experience for the students, Guiora said.

“Students will be assigned to one of three groups and each group will participate in the same scenario — allowing for between-group performance assessments in addition to individual assessments,” Guiora explained. “The main simulation facilitates an opportunity for the students to synthesize the discrete skills they practiced in the mini simulations.“

 Adding to the realism and intensity of the event, a press corps of undergraduate communications students will “cover” each of the exercises live, and pepper the participating law students with realistic questions about the events unfolding around them. 

Guiora predicts that all involved, including remote viewers of the live stream, will come away with a better appreciation of how difficult it is to make decisions in a terroristic situation.

To view any or all of the simulations, visit the Simulation websiteon Friday, March 30, beginning at 8:30 a.m. MDT.