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Opposition to Government Intrusion at Duke-UNC Consortium

By Kelly Hand

The AAUP issued a statement in September expressing concern about a letter from the US Department of Education regarding the Duke–UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies. The letter sets a dangerous precedent by insisting that the consortium must revise its programmatic offerings in order to secure its eligibility for future federal grant funding. Alleging that the consortium’s activities do not conform to Title VI grant-funding priorities, Assistant Secretary Robert King also singled out specific courses, conferences, and academic papers—not all of them supported by the grant—as evidence of the consortium’s pro-Islam or anti-Israel bias. As the AAUP statement noted, the Department of Education’s demand that the consortium revise its offerings “marks a chillingly inappropriate political intrusion into curricular decisions best made by faculty and poses a significant threat to academic freedom.” The statement concludes by urging the department “to step away from the dangerous path it has entered.” Several other organizations that support higher education and free expression, including the Association of American Colleges and Universities and PEN America, have signed on to the AAUP statement.

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