The Trump administration is putting pressure on the University of North Carolina and Duke University to change their joint Middle East studies program or risk losing federal funding.
The Education Department sent the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies a letter on August 29 criticizing the program for disproportionately portraying “the positive aspects of Islam.” The Associated Press reports that the agency demanded that the two universities reform the program by September 22 or lose a grant they’ve been receiving for nearly a decade.
The National Resource Center gives grants to programs that promote foreign language learning.
The Education Department claimed in its letter that foreign language and national security have “taken a back seat to other priorities” that have “little or no relevance” to the grant’s principal objectives.
The agency also wrote that the program puts “considerable emphasis” on the “understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East.”
The program has until the deadline of September 22 to send a “revised schedule of activities” and detail how each is connected to foreign language and national security.
“It is patently false that the Department is reviewing the program as being too positive on Islam,” a department spokesperson told The Hill. “We’re reviewing UNC-Duke’s use of grant funds because we are concerned that they have not followed congressional requirements for the program — that students must learn a foreign language and hear diverse regional perspectives.”
“Our inquiry has nothing to do with their program having an Islamic bias,” the spokesperson continued. “Pro-Islamic programming isn’t the concern — it’s the lack of diversity and foreign language learning.”
A spokesperson representing the Duke-UNC consortium declared in a statement that “the Consortium deeply values its partnership with the Department of Education and has always been strongly committed to complying with the purposes and requirements of the Title VI program.”
“In keeping with the spirit of this partnership, the Consortium is committed to working with the Department to provide more information about its programs,” the spokesperson added.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos‘s investigation into the consortium started after Congressman George Holding forwarded her a letter criticizing the program for holding a conference with “severe anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
DeVos stated that she was “troubled” by the letter and would look into the consortium, The Associated Press reported.
Ideally, the federal government would not be subsidizing these education programs.
Instead, private entities or at least state governments would be funding university programs.
What this case shows is American university’s embrace of political correctness culture, where certain religions like Islam are given a positive spin, while other faiths like Christianity get constantly demonized.
Even in the 21st century, Islam still has a ways to go in reforming many of its brutal practices, something many universities across the nation whitewash.
Universities should be about free inquiry and fierce debate, not PC coddling.
And in no way should taxpayers be financing universities’ PC curricula.
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