Duke reaffirms academic freedom in response to Middle East consortium controversy

Middle East

After the Department of Education sent a letter criticizing the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, Duke had yet to issue an official response. Until now.

In a Thursday afternoon email sent to faculty that was released on Duke Today, President Vincent Price and Provost Sally Kornbluth emphasized the importance of protecting Duke’s academic freedom. 

“No outside entity will determine what Duke faculty will teach, how they teach it, what they choose to research or write about, or who can speak on our campus,” Price and Kornbluth wrote. 

They did note that if Duke accepts government funding, the University has an “obligation” to work within the legal parameters set by a grant. 

Last week, a letter sent to the consortium by the U.S. Department of Education stated that the program may have violated federal rules and criticized the focus of the consortium’s initiatives. The department began the investigation in June and concluded that the Duke-UNC consortium misused Title VI funds, which pertain to international studies at U.S. universities.

“There is a considerable emphasis placed 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 letter from the Department of Education stated. 

The consortium is based out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, so Price and Kornbluth wrote that UNC responded to the Department of Education formally.  

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