AMHERST, Mass. – Alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg, who directed the $7 billion fund created by Congress to assist the families of those killed or injured in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, will give a talk on the seventh anniversary of the attacks at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He will speak on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 4:30 p.m. in the Bernie Dallas room in Goodell Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Feinberg’s talk, titled “The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund: Private Pain and Public Compensation,” is the keynote address in the 2008-09 Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series. The series, “Measuring the Value of Human Life,” takes place throughout the fall and is hosted by the UMass Amherst history department.
Feinberg will address the circumstances surrounding Congressional enactment of this fund, which is unique in American history. He will talk about why the fund succeeded in its mission but also why it is unlikely that it will ever again be replicated or used as a precedent. Feinberg says the fund was a unique response to an unprecedented historical tragedy. In providing eligibility for the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, but no others, the statute creating the fund raises important philosophical and political issues about the appropriate role of government in compensating innocent victims of life’s misfortunes, he says.
Feinberg is a 1967 graduate of UMass Amherst, earned his law degree from New York University School of Law in 1970 and received an honorary doctorate from UMass Amherst in 2002.
The lecture series, “Measuring the Value of Human Life” will engage scholarship in history, bioethics, legal studies, the arts and other realms to explore how value has been ascribed to human lives in courtrooms, labs, archives, boardrooms and universities. Public lectures, panels and film screenings will consider subjects ranging from the role of war and sacrifice in ancient societies to contemporary reparations movements. Events will examine efforts to compensate individuals and families for lives and limbs lost on the battlefield and in the workplace. The organizers will consider attempts, from the religious to the technological, to purchase eternal life, and reflect on ways in which historians have measured and valued life stories. For more information, go to http://www.umass.edu/history/feinberg.html.
This program is affiliated with The Feinberg Institute, a center for research and scholarship that will guide policymakers, the legal community, decision-makers and others as they grapple with the question of how much a life is worth. To learn more about this initiative, go to www.umass.edu/feinberginstitute.
Feinberg has had a distinguished and wide-ranging career in mediation, which has included cases involving Agent Orange and the Dalkon Shield. Most recently he oversaw Virginia Tech’s Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. He is best known as the Special Master of the Federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, and is the author of the book, “What is Life Worth? The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11.”