From: The Stream

Why is the US government probing a Middle East studies course?

The Trump administration threatens to cut funding to college programme over alleged ‘pro-Islam’ bias.

An inquiry by the US Department of Education into a Middle East studies programme is raising concerns about academic freedom. The US Department of Education argues that the joint curriculum, run by the University of North Carolina and Duke University, is misusing federal funds to advance “ideological priorities” by focusing on the “positive aspects of Islam” but not Christianity or Judaism.

Assistant Secretary Robert King wrote in a letter to the schools that the consortium, “appears to lack balance as it offers very few, if any, programs focused on the historic discrimination faced by, and current circumstances of, religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Yadizis, Kurds, Druze, and others.”

In response, UNC issued a statement saying: “The Consortium deeply values its partnership with the Department of Education and… is committed to working with the Department to provide more information about its programs.”

Higher education advocates are now warning the government could be setting a dangerous precedent by injecting politics into academic funding decisions.

On this episode of The Stream, we’ll dive into the debate by asking our panel… is academic freedom under threat? 


On this episode of The Stream, we speak with: 


Aisha Jitan, @aishajitan
Co-president, Students for Justice in Palestine


Jay Schalin, @AcademicRenewal
Director of Policy, James Martin Center


Sarah Brown, @Brown_e_Points​
Senior reporter, The Chronicle of Higher Education


Read more: 
Education Dept. takes aim at a center on Middle East studies – The Chronicle of Higher Education 
US orders Duke and UNC to recast tone in Mideast studies – The New York Times 

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