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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          NEWS SERVICES
210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279

August 26, 2002

Carolina in the News

Here is a sampling of links and notes about Carolina people 
and programs cited recently in the international and national media:

Current International Coverage

Muslims are wrong to blame the British media (Opinion-Editorial Column)
The Independent (London, U.K.)

Ever since the Rushdie affair I have been harrying the media, liberal intellectuals especially, for 
the contemptible ease with which they used the event to malign all Muslims and their faith... On 
US television channels the ignorant are fed junk news and views about Muslims and Islam. The 
interviewer Bill O'Reilly, for example, finds it intolerable that the University of North Carolina 
should ask some of its students to read the Koran for a course.

New Yorkers must learn to sleep soundly at night (Commentary)
The Daily Telegraph (U.K.)

The other night I watched the CNN anchor, Aaron Brown, interviewing a photographer about 
her contributions to a New York Times collection of September 11 reportage... Such pervasive 
soppiness might be more tolerable if it weren't for the very real and powerful hostility that greets 
any attempts to move beyond it. The University of North Carolina was taken to court last week 
by a conservative Christian group for assigning a book about the Koran to its freshmen.
(Note: The Daily Telegraph requires free registration to access articles.)

National Highlights

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been chosen as one of this year's 12 "Hot 
" by editors of the 2003 Kaplan/Newsweek "How to Get into College" guide, available 
on newsstands today (Aug. 26). Carolina also was cited in two stories in the guide about 
admissions practices, which prominently feature UNC's national leadership last spring in eliminating 
binding early-decision admissions. Coverage includes a color photo of Chancellor James Moeser 
on campus. His announcement in April, making UNC the first highly selective, major U.S. university 
to drop the practice, drew national media attention. For more information, please go to Today's 
edition of The Charlotte Observer features a story about the new rankings

CNN-TV program, "CNN Sunday Morning," featured author Michael Sells, who wrote 
"Approaching the Qur'an," and Jim Yacovelli, state director of Family Policy Network, on Sunday 
morning at 11- noon. Anchor Fredricka Whitfield questioned both in a 5 minute segment called, 
"The Koran in college." In this interview, Sells called Carolina "one of the greatest universities in 
the world." To view the transcript, please go to

Current National Coverage 

The value of open-mindedness (Editorial)
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)

The University of North Carolina has assigned incoming freshmen to read the book Approaching 
the Qur'an: The Early Revelations. The assignment is appropriate, considering the Sept. 11 attacks 
by Islamic fanatics..,1426,MCA_537_1342230,00.html

What Little Faith In Christianity They Must Possess (Commentary)
The Tampa Tribune
Talk about making a mountain out of Mecca! It's noteworthy there was precious little outrage in 
spring when University of North Carolina Chancellor James Moeser ordered that the school's 
incoming freshmen would be required to read a book about the Koran to prepare for group 
discussions about Islam.
(Note: This commentary is no longer available online. To read the entire commentary, please 
scroll down to the bottom of today's edition of Carolina in the News.)

Carolina's summer reading selection biased, unfair (Commentary)
San Antonio Express-News

Summer reading lists have introduced millions of young readers to great literature... For 4,200 
freshmen and transfer students arriving this week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel 
Hill, the Summer Reading Program appears, at first glance, no different.
(Note: This column was reprinted in Friday's edition of the Times-Picayune (Louisiana) and the 
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

Letter to the Editor
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Aug. 22 editorial on academic freedom characterizes the critics of the reading assignment at 
the University of North Carolina as being narrow-minded...
(Note: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published three letters to the editor on Sunday. To view all 
letters to the editor, please go to the above url and scroll down the page.)

Routine screening urged for Fragile X
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Katie Clapp knew something was wrong with her newborn boy, but it took two years and dozens 
of doctor visits before he was diagnosed with the most common inherited cause of mental
retardation... Don Bailey, who led the survey from the University of North Carolina, said the
findings raised the question of whether all babies should be screened for Fragile X.
(Note: This Associated Press story, originating from the Atlanta Bureau, is appearing in other 
newspapers and media outlets including the Guelph Mercury (Canada) and the Baton Rouge 

Regional News Notes

The Back Pew: A university is the place for revelations (Commentary)
Roanoke Times & World News (Va.)

It may have been the spring semester of my freshman year at the University of North Carolina at 
Chapel Hill that I first sat in class under the Rev. Dr. Bernard Boyd... The folks at the Family 
Policy Network in Bedford County who prompted the recent lawsuit against UNC-Chapel Hill 
over a required seminar on the Quran would quickly point out that I was not compelled to take 
any classes under Boyd.

Faith moves him to act 
Roanoke Times & World News (Va.)

Joe Glover doesn't mind comparing himself to David fighting a mighty Goliath... Goliath - this 
month's version - is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Through his Bedford County-
based Family Policy Network, Glover championed a federal lawsuit against the university - his 
wife's alma mater - challenging a reading assignment on the Quran.

State and Local Coverage

The News and Observer Q section posed the following question this Sunday: "Could UNC-CH 
officials have foreseen the weeks of debate they would spawn by requiring freshman to read a 
224-page book about the Qur'an? Then again, isn't debate what college is about?" This section 
featured four opinion-editorial columns from Chancellor Moeser, freshman Rebecca Chasnovitz
State Representative Gene Arnold, and Director of UNC's Program on Southern Politics, Media 
and Public Life Ferrel Guillory and included comments from incoming freshman and letters to the 
editor about the summer reading program as well as a chronology of the 2002 Summer Reading 
Program . Below are urls to some of the stories:

Book Smarts
News and Observer

It was not tight budgets, this time, that pitted politicians against professors. Parents and lifelong 
friends worried about bright young men and women who were leaving home at summer's end.

An atmosphere of unfettered inquiry (Opinion-Editorial Column)
News and Observer

Carolina attracts amazing students. On Monday, they responded admirably to the challenge of an 
assignment -- reading a book about the Quran -- that sparked national controversy.
(Note: James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.)

An attempt to make sense out of tragedy (Opinion-Editorial Column)
News and Observer

I came to college because I don't know everything. I don't know what career I should pursue, I 
don't know my feelings on country music and, judging by the clock right now, I don't know how to 
manage my time.
(Note: Rebecca Chasnovitz is a freshman at UNC.)

A matter of timing --and arrogance (Opinion-Editorial Column)
News and Observer

Much controversy has ensued over the summer reading assignment at UNC-Chapel Hill, where 
"Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations" was a requirement for all incoming freshmen. 
Failure to perform this task required the individual to defend that position based upon his or her 
personal religious principles.
(Note: Gene Arnold serves in the N.C. House of Representatives.)

Freshmen weigh in 
News and Observer

'It's been way, way overblown. I'm an international studies major now, and [reading the book] 
maybe inspired me to minor in Arabic...
(Note: This column features the opinions of three incoming freshman about the controversy over 
the summer reading program.)

Old song, new verse (Opinion-Editorial Column)
News and Observer

In 1925, the General Assembly held a hearing on a resolution to stymie teaching of evolution in 
North Carolina's public schools. Harry W. Chase, president of the University of North Carolina, 
showed up in Raleigh to speak against the measure as an affront to teachers' "human liberty."
(Note: Ferrel Guillory heads UNC's Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public Life.)

Listening Post: The doom of ignorance (Speech Transcript)
News and Observer

From remarks by Charles Kurzman, assistant sociology professor, at last week's freshman 
convocation at UNC-Chapel Hill. A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a restaurant in Istanbul, 
Turkey. This restaurant is underneath a bridge, so there's traffic honking over our heads and water
practically splashing up on the table...

A chronology 
News and Observer

Source: N&O Archives 
May 8: Campus press announces faculty panel's pick for summer reading for incoming freshmen, 
"Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations" by Michael Sells.

Meanwhile, we study religion every day (Opinion-Editorial Column)
News and Observer

The camera crews have left, and the furor seems to have died down about the teaching of religion 
at UNC-Chapel Hill...
(Note: Laurie Maffly-Kipp is chair of the department of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Other offenders (Letter to the Editor)
News and Observer

In his Aug. 18 column on the Quran controversy, Editorial Page Editor Steve Ford defended 
putting Islamic culture, and not Christian or Jewish culture..

Shouldn't have (Letter to the Editor)
News and Observer

In Steve Ford's Aug. 18 column, "Coulda, woulda, shoulda at UNC," he asks and then states: 
"Didn't anyone bother to wonder how this was going to look?

A form of tribute (Letter to the Editor)
News and Observer

Perhaps every citizen in North Carolina should have required reading. I suggest a text in introductory 
logic. In his Aug. 18 column, Editorial Page Editor Steve Ford referred to a letter-writer's point 
that the UNC Quran flap is "odious" because the reading assignment "implicates the dead themselves."

Response in Quran issue draws praise
Chapel Hill News 

University officials say they're pleased to see a committee of the UNC system Board of Governors 
moving forward on efforts to pass a resolution endorsing academic freedom, but they expressed 
dismay that a conservative Christian organization plans to move ahead with its lawsuit challenging 
the school's summer reading program.

Can we put Quran ban behind us? (Editorial)
Chapel Hill News

Well, that's settled. The Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina does support 
academic freedom after all.

The Quran Culture Wars 
The Spectator (Raleigh, N.C.)

Sometimes all you can do is laugh. Sometimes the spectacle parading in front of you is so idiotic, so 
over-the-top absurd, all you can do is lean back in a chair, cross your arms behind your head and 
laugh out loud as you watch... We all know the story: Far-right conservatives went nuts after UNC-
Chapel Hill decided to require (well, sort of) incoming first-year students to read Approaching the 
Quran: The Early Revelations.

Opinion Panel
Winston-Salem Journal

Do you think that the N.C. General Assembly should prevent the University of North Carolina from 
assigning reading material about the Quran?
(Note: The Winston-Salem Journal conducted a poll by email about the General Assembly's response 
to the summer reading program. To read the results of this poll, please visit

People of faith must vote their convictions (Letter to the Editor)
Greensboro News and Record

I'd like to thank the judges who allowed UNC-Chapel Hill to continue with the Quran program, even 
though it was an open-and-shut case of unconstitutionality...

Sept. 11 attacks continue to affect opinions on Islam 
Asheville Citizen-Times

After Sept. 11, George W. Bush was careful to tell Americans they had not been attacked by Islam but 
by ruthless terrorists who had hijacked a peaceful religion along with the planes that slammed into the 
World Trade Center and Pentagon... And this month, the University of North Carolina faced legal and 
legislative challenges, and criticism for asking 4,200 incoming freshmen and transfer students to read 
"Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations," a book written by Haverford College religion professor 
Michael Sells about Islam's sacred scripture.

Learning about other cultures part of college experience (Letter to the Editor)
Asheville Citizen-Times

I have read several letters complaining about UNC required reading on Islam to prepare incoming 
freshmen to participate in a discussion on Islamic culture. The writers complain the school is "teaching Islam."

Students can read Koran with no prompting from state (Letter to the Editor)
Asheville Citizen-Times

I take issue with the naive opinion of the author of the letter, "Editorial on UNC reading requirement is 
bigoted," (AC-T, Aug. 15), about UNC freshman's curriculum requiring study of the Koran...

Ye Olde UNC (Letter to the Editor)
Greensboro News and Record

I am writing in response to the editorial (Aug. 17) "Scholarly inquiry is affirmed at UNC," concerning the 
controversy over the required reading by incoming freshmen of the book "Approaching the Qur'an."

One-sided (Letter to the Editor)
Wilmington Morning Star

EDITOR: Regarding the discussion of the Quran book by UNC-CH students, page one of the Morning 
Star on Aug. 20 presents “Chapel Hill holds Quran talks” as an innocuous discussion of a religious text.
(Note: The Wilmington Morning Star published two letters to the editor on Saturday. To view both, 
click on the above url and scroll down to the bottom of the web page.)

Low-key, respectful events set for 9/11 
News and Observer

Grief and sorrow will flood some of the Triangle's most visible public places -- the Entertainment and 
Sports Arena, the State Capitol and UNC-Chapel Hill -- as residents mark the anniversary of the Sept. 
11 terrorist attacks... As he did last year, Chancellor James Moeser will address students on the Polk 
Place lawn, where dozens of community service groups will recruit volunteers. A student-sponsored 
candlelight vigil is expected later that night. "It's a time to reflect on our core values as Americans," Moeser 
said Friday, a time for faculty, students and staff "to channel their grief, their energy into acts of service."

Melting pot 
The News and Observer

On a blistering summer afternoon, cabbie Ali Mohamed waits outside Raleigh-Durham International 
Airport for a fare... "It's more cosmopolitan, it's more global and I think it speaks volumes in the international 
marketplace about the fact that we are a place that celebrates, manages effectively and embraces diversity," 
said Jim Johnson, a Kenan professor of management at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Issues and Trends Affecting Carolina

Private Money Pads Packages of Public University Leaders
The New York Times

Some of the country's highest-paid officials at public universities are being compensated at levels once 
considered the domain of their counterparts at private institutions, a survey published today by The Chronicle 
of Higher Education shows.
(Note: The New York Times requires free registration to access articles.)

Missing Males
The Winston-Salem Journal 

At Winston-Salem State University, all it takes is a quick count of the dorms to see that women students 
far outnumber men: four for women, one for men... College officials, meanwhile, worry that an uneven 
enrollment could jeopardize future growth and wonder how far they should go to create or maintain gender 
balance on campus
(Note: The Associated Press also picked up the story, which has appeared in The Charlotte Observer 
and The News and Observer.) 

Joint town-UNC public works site proposed
Chapal Hill News

The Elkin Hills neighborhood’s push to keep UNC from building a fueling station and grounds-keeping 
facility next to the community has sparked a lot of interest from Town Council members.

Rising water use concerns OWASA 
Chapel Hill Herald

Whether a direct correlation or simply a coincidence, local water use increased markedly this week just 
as the massive influx of students returned to UNC for the start of the school year.

Note: If you have any questions about Carolina in the News, 
please call Cathleen Keyser or Mike McFarland at News Services, 
(919) 962-2091 or or


Wisconsin State Journal 
Page A14 

At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill , the university's 3,500 freshmen have a required summer 
reading assignment: A book about the Koran, the sacred writings of Islam. The controversial UNC assignment 
offers further evidence that teaching students about the world's great religions - Christianity included - is not a 
violation of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion.

Incoming freshmen at UNC are required to read "Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations," by Michael 
Sells, a professor of religion at Haverford College. The book is a translation of 35 early suras, or chapters, of 
the Koran, accompanied by commentary and a glossary of Islamic terms. University officials say the book was 
assigned to introduce freshmen to the intellectual give-and-take of college, not to indoctrinate them in any 
particular religious faith.

Some pro-Christian groups didn't buy that argument. They challenged the reading assignment in court (and lost 
on appeal) and the North Carolina Legislature is threatening to withhold money to UNC unless it guarantees 
"equal time" for other religions.

The real story here is not whether "Approaching the Qur'an" is a balanced treatment of Islam. It likely is not: 
Critics say the book ignores the Islamic concept of "jihad," or holy war. (In fact, it glosses over the fact that 
Islam was founded amid violence. Christ never led armies or ordered the execution of prisoners, but 
Mohammad did.)

Nor should the debate center on whether or not professors at a public university have the right to make 
provocative reading assignments. Good professors do that all the time. Without academic freedom, the nation's 
great universities would atrophy at a Third World pace.

At its core, the UNC flap is about drawing a reasonable line between freedom of religion and freedom from 
religion. The Christian groups that have tried to block the reading assignment should instead be supporting it.

Here's why: Those who would purge all discussion of religion from the hallways of public schools have been 
arguing for decades that education is tantamount to indoctrination. It you teach a kid about the life of Christ or 
Mohammad, you're somehow crossing the line into state sponsorship of religion.

That's hogwash, of course, and the UNC assignment proves it. If professors can require students to read a 
book summarizing Islam, they can also require them to read a book capturing the core tenets of Christianity or 
Judaism. It is not a "government" decision, but a legitimate academic exercise.

The students at UNC who read "Approaching the Qur'an" will undoubtedly learn a great deal, such as the 
fact that there are many parallels between Islam and Christianity. Perhaps the folks opposing the UNC reading 
will learn something, too: That if they fight this assignment, they're on shaky ground the next time a professor 
asks students to read a book about the Bible.

What Little Faith In Christianity They Must Possess

The Tampa Tribune 
Page 2 

Talk about making a mountain out of Mecca!

It's noteworthy there was precious little outrage in spring when University of North Carolina Chancellor James 
Moeser ordered that the school's incoming freshmen would be required to read a book about the Koran to 
prepare for group discussions about Islam.

After all, college students are called upon often to do stuff they would rather not do - such as study, attend class, 
take tests. There are other more worthy campus pursuits: drinking beer, sleeping late and having as much
recreational sex as possible.

And thus, the requirement to read "Approaching the Qur'an" by Michael Sells was probably no more a big deal
to students than having to ponder the "History of Twyla Tharp" for an arts appreciation class.

Ah, but that was before the politicians and a Christian fundamentalist group decided to make a senseless federal 
case out of the Koran by suing to stop the assignment.

The Family Policy Network and the American Family Association Center For Law and Policy argued in court 
that the reading assignment violated constitutional provisions against a state- sponsored religion in that the 
university was forcibly indoctrinating students to the ways of Islam.


Chicken Littles

Like many public universities, UNC has a religious studies department in which all manner of faiths and theological 
issues are studied with precious little controversy.

Ironically, given the off-campus brouhaha by fundamentalist Chicken Littles, Moeser moved to create the reading 
assignment in the wake of Sept. 11, when more students sought to enroll in courses about Islam to understand a 
culture and a faith unfamiliar to them.

And this is wrong how?

"Had this been a Bible reading imposed under these terms, it would have been stricken," said Stephen Crampton,
mouthpiece for the American Family Association.

But that Lot's wife view of academia misses the point of the assignment.

It is not too terribly presumptuous to assume that a vast majority of UNC 's 3,500 incoming freshmen come from 
Christian families, where, to varying degrees, they were steeped fairly well in the tenets and principles expressed in 
the Bible.

Is Crampton's confidence in students' adherence to their Christian ideals so meager that he fears after being exposed 
to a single book about the Koran they will be drawn helplessly to wear burqas, even the guys?

Oh ye of little faith.

Skewed Prism

If anything, the dustup over the assignment serves to prove Moeser's point that the reading and discussion would be 
a worthy exercise in academic freedom.

Especially since Sept. 11, many Americans' views toward Islam have been skewed through the prism of violence 
and jihad. And many Arabs, simply because of their ethnicity, are looked upon as potential terrorists.

Moeser should be lauded for his effort to bring a measure of coherent, sane dialogue toward reaching a fairer, more 
balanced understanding of a culture.

What better place to accomplish that goal than a college campus?

Universities should be places where great debates occur, where differences are vigorously debated, where students 
are taught how to think and defend their opinions.

Sure, let's not forget the beer and the parties. This is college, after all. Better not get too carried away with all this 
intellectual stuff.

Is "Approaching the Qur'an" the perfect vehicle for students to get a clearer picture of Islam? Probably not. Islam is 
a complicated subject. But Moeser wasn't attempting to create a master class on Islam - only a first step toward 

Did Moeser's effort pay off? Or were the students scandalized as Crampton feared? According to news reports out 
of Chapel Hill , a number of students said, if anything, they found the book boring.

Ah, what better academic preparation for four years of the Principles of Macroeconmics, or the Wit and Wisdom of 
Nietzsche, or Rocks 101?

This flap ought to die down pretty soon, once Crampton and his ilk realize there will be no rush of Baptist students 
converting to Islam.

Besides, there are more important campus issues on the horizon.

Basketball season starts soon. In North Carolina, that's a cult.