At the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Neel Ahuja is teaching a course on the literature related to the 9-11 terrorist attacks. In response to concerns raised by both the Young Republicans group on the campus and by the Pope Center, the Faculty Council has issued a resolution unanimously affirming the academic integrity of the course and the academic freedom of Neel Ahuja.
In an article titled “Faculty Backs Professor in UNC 9/11-Lit Dispute,” published by the Herald-Sun in Chapel Hill and Durham [28 Sep. 2015], Ray Gronberg notes that the College Republicans charged that the course is being “’used to indoctrinate students against the very civilization that supports our studies financially and defends the freedoms we enjoy.’” Likewise, Jay Schalin, an analyst at the Pope Center, charged that his review of the works included in the course’s reading list has convinced him that the overall slant of the course is “’explicitly anti-American.’”
More broadly, Schalin has asserted the Pope Center’s position that no faculty member at a public university has a right to academic freedom: “’In a public university, it is the board [of trustees] that has the final say and holds the academic freedom rights that belong to the university.’”
Gronberg does devote some space to highlighting several ironies in this controversy. The most significant of those ironies is that the Pope Center itself is being massively self-contradictory in supporting the attacks on this course. Earlier in September, Geroge Leef, another analyst at the Pope Center, emphatically expressed the Pope Center’s support for a statement on academic freedom issued by the Faculty Senate at American University in Washington, D.C., in response to a demand for “trigger warnings”:
“It said professors have the right ‘to freely communicate ideas–without censorship–and to study material as it is written, produced or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings.’ Moreover, ‘shielding students from controversial material will deter them from becoming critical thinkers and responsible citizens.’ . . . [On the other hand,] ‘helping them learn to process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important responsibilities of higher education.’”
Ray Gronberg’s complete article is available at: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/faculty-backs-professor-in-unc–lit-dispute/article_b187a2f0-6488-11e5-b685-1b5e42904fc3.html