carolina.gif (1377 bytes)

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

August 8, 2002

Carolina in the News

Current International and National Coverage

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

Prerequisite for admission
The Jerusalem Post 

A boiling religion controversy has erupted in North Carolina, where the university 
at Chapel Hill is requiring all entering freshmen and transfer students to read and 
discuss a book about Islam, which has resulted in a federal lawsuit and a strong 
condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League.
(Note: No online link is available. To view the entire article, please scroll down 
to the bottom of today's edition of Carolina in the News.)

The Washington Post wire service distributed yesterday's story on the reading 
program. Other pickup known to date includes the BBC News 
and The Philadelphia Inquirer

Understanding, Not Indoctrination (Opinion-Editorial Column)
The Washington Post

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is being sued for assigning my 
book, "Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations," as required summer 
reading for first-year students. The plaintiffs charge that UNC indoctrinates 
students with deceptive claims about the peaceful nature of Islam, violating the 
separation of church and state. In fact, the book makes no general claims 
about Islam...
(Note: Michael Sells is author of "Approaching the Qur'an.")

State-lake tests detect 'superbugs'
Des Moines Register (Iowa)

Potentially dangerous E. coli bacteria capable of fighting off common antibiotics 
are present in some state-park swimming areas, a study of water there shows... 
Studies have found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in lakes, rivers and underground 
aquifers, said Dr. Mary Gilchrist, a microbiologist and director of the University 
of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory. A recent University of North Carolina study 
found them underground near livestock confinements.

National News Notes 

Provost Robert Shelton is scheduled to appear on two national television news 
programs tonight and tomorrow in connection with the summer reading program: 
"The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," airing at 6 p.m. on WUNC-TV (PBS) and 
"The Early Show," airing from 7 a.m. - 9 a.m. on Friday on WRAL-TV (CBS).

North Carolina News Notes

Susan Foley Pierce, associate professor in the School of Nursing, was 
interviewed on Tuesday, August 6, on WPTF-AM News Radio about the 
current shortage of nurses in the nation. 

WRAL-TV (CBS) will air interviews with Sandra Evans, senior vice 
and Director of Nursing at UNC Hospitals, and Judith Miller
associate professor in the School of Nursing, tonight at 5 p.m. about the 
School of Nursing's 14-month second degree in Bachelor of Science in 
Nursing as well as the current nursing shortage.

State and Local Coverage

N.C. legislature blasts UNC for Islam reading
Charlotte Observer

A national debate over a UNC Chapel Hill reading assignment landed in the state 
legislature Wednesday, when a group of lawmakers endorsed stripping state funds 
for a program that teaches students about the Qu'ran.

Lawmakers oppose UNC reading plan 
In the middle of putting together a new state budget Wednesday, state House 
members attacked UNC-Chapel Hill officials over their plan to teach new students 
about a book on the Quran, Islam's holy scriptures. The attack came during the 
second day of a marathon meeting of the House Appropriations Committee as 
members debated about 50 amendments to a proposed $14.3 billion budget plan.

N.C. Senate considers cutting funds for UNC facilities, programs 
As state budget deliberations in Raleigh continue, an angst-riddled buzz has 
surfaced on the UNC Chapel Hill campus, where officials, faculty and staff have 
kept an eye on budget discussions that don’t appear promising to the university.

Airport’s fate hinges on N.C. budget plans 
Legislators say a measure designed to force UNC to keep the Horace Williams 
Airport open may not survive the General Assembly’s continuing budget debate 

Diabetes striking more children 
Even after she visited rural North Carolina schools and noted that nearly half the 
kids were overweight, researcher Joanne S. Harrell was aghast at the results of 
blood tests that stared back at her: One in 10 of the children was on the brink 
of Type II diabetes... "Now, that's huge," said Harrell, a professor of nursing 
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who presented her findings 
during the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in June.

17 Tar Heels to spend semester in Africa 
Seventeen University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sophomores and juniors 
will spend the upcoming semester in Cape Town, South Africa, studying the 
country’s conflicts, culture and politics and serving internships at agencies 
throughout the city.
(Note: This story is a UNC News Services release.)

UNC model may help study cardiac disease 
The collaboration between cardiologist and orthopedist may at first seem novel, if 
not odd. But just such an interdisciplinary connection at the University of North 
Carolina at Chapel Hill has yielded potentially useful fruit: a bioengineered, 
rhythmically beating experimental model of heart muscle.
(Note: This story is a UNC news release.)

Perseid meteor shower promising 
The Perseid meteor shower is widely considered the best sky event of the year, 
and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center will commemorate it with a 
public observing session Aug. 12. The free session will be held, weather permitting, 
at Jordan Lake’s Ebenezer Church Recreation Area from 10 to 11:30 p.m.
(Note: This story is a UNC News Services release.)

Issues and Trends Affecting Carolina

Officials Link Foreign Web Sites to Cheating on Graduate Admission Exams
The New York Times

An undetermined number of students in China, Taiwan and South Korea were able 
to raise their scores substantially last year on the verbal part of the most widely used 
entrance exam to American graduate schools by logging on to Web sites in those 
countries that post questions and answers memorized by previous test takers, test 
administrators said yesterday.

Public universities raise tuition, fees — and ire 
USA Today

Public university students nationwide are likely to face larger classes, longer lines 
and fewer course options when they return to campus in a few weeks. And they'll 
be paying more for it. In all but a handful of states, tuition is going up at four-year 
public universities, which educate 40% — the largest share — of the nation's 15 
million college students.
(Note: To view a comparative table of tuition at state universities, please

Something for everyone 
New benefits for state workers proposed in the House budget appear to offer 
something appealing to employees of all ages: early retirement for long-time workers, 
extra vacation for the young.

House budget committee wades through NC spending plan 
Eliminating half the money for the Smart Start child care program didn't happen. 
Neither did taking $112 million in university money and giving it to local governments. 
But those are just two of more than 80 proposals considered by the House 
Appropriations Committee since Tuesday, its second day of reviewing a $14.3 
billion state spending plan.

Plan snags for NCSU complex 

House budget writers have put brakes on a proposal by N.C. State University to 
build an executive conference center and golf course on Centennial Campus.

Town floats Weaver Dairy proposal 
Town officials have come up with another compromise proposal for the widening 
of Weaver Dairy Road and hope to begin selling it to state officials later this month.

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

Prerequisite for admission
Elli Wohlgelernter

The Jerusalem Post 

A boiling religion controversy has erupted in North Carolina, where the university 
at Chapel Hill is requiring all entering freshmen and transfer students to read and 
discuss a book about Islam, which has resulted in a federal lawsuit and a strong 
condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League.

The university has instructed freshmen that over the summer they must read 
Approaching the Qur'n: The Early Revelations, which consists of "35 suras, or short 
passages from the chief holy book of Islam, that largely focus on the experience of 
the divine in the natural world and the principle of moral accountability in human life. 
Easily accessible to any college-level reader, these suras are poetic and intensely 
evocative, beautiful meditations, comparable in many ways to the Psalms of David 
and other classics of world literature."

But a Christian legal firm filed suit in federal court last week on behalf of three 
anonymous students - one of them Jewish - against the University of North Carolina, 
saying a requirement that freshmen read a book about Islam is unconstitutional, on 
two counts.

The first states that the university is violating the Establishment Clause of the First 
Amendment by forcing incoming students to "read, meditate upon and listen to 
recitations of the sacred text of Islam," a requirement that in effect promotes Islam 
and advances the Islamic religion.

The other First Amendment violation, according to the lawsuit, involves the second 
requirement of the university. On August 19, all the entering freshmen and transfer 
students must participate in a mandatory discussion segment on the book, and write 
a one-page essay stating their feelings about the religion.

In reaction to the growing criticism over the required reading, UNC amended its 
Web site two weeks ago saying that "although the summer reading is required, if 
any students or their families are opposed to reading parts of the Koran because to 
do so is offensive to their own faith, they may choose not to read the book. These 
students should instead complete their one-page response on why they chose not 
to read the book."

That essay, according to the suit filed by the Mississippi- based American Family 
Association Center for Law and Policy, goes against the First Amendment's Free 
Exercise clause by forcing dissenters to "publicly reveal their innermost thoughts and 
feelings about religion" and exposing them to ridicule by peers and faculty.

For that reason, the three UNC freshmen involved in the lawsuit are identified only 
as John Doe No. 1, an evangelical Christian; John Doe No. 2, a Catholic; and Jane 
Roe, who is Jewish.

A litigation counsel for the CLP was quoted as saying that the "opt-out" step by the 
university is worse than the reading requirement itself, pitting those students who 
object to the forced reading against those who do not, "the modern equivalent of 
requiring the objecting students to wear yellow stars of David."

The university said this year's choice for its summer reading program "was selected 
for several reasons, the most obvious being the opportunity to learn more about the 
Islamic culture. Westerners for centuries have been alternately puzzled, attracted, 
concerned, and curious about the great religious traditions of Islam. These feelings 
have been especially intense since the tragic events of September 11. This book is 
not a political document in any sense; rather it introduces a culture unknown to many 
Americans and raises questions that are timely for all."

While the university will not comment now on pending litigation, earlier this summer 
UNC Chancellor James Moeser wrote in response to critics that "we offer the 
summer reading this year in that spirit of seeking understanding - not in advocacy of 
Islam over Christianity or Judaism or any other religion."

But Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti- Defamation League, said the 
choice of the book and the reason for it was a "perversion of 9/11. It is important 
to teach tolerance, and it's important not to blame the totality of Islam for 9/11. But 
to go from there and make it mandatory for incoming freshman is overboard, 
perverse and misses the point."

Foxman said that while it's important to teach about various religions, "this is not 
teaching about religion, this is mandating it - 'this is what you have to do.' It's 

"There are all kinds of ways to teach about a religion, and most universities have 
comparative-religion courses, but you don't mandate it for every freshmen. This is 
pandering to threat of terrorism. We're not immune in the US, but there have not 
been major attacks against Muslims in the country. There have been attacks, but
there have been more attacks against Jews since 9/11. There's no need for national 

Or Mars, executive director of North Carolina Hillel, said the university's directive 
has not caused an uproar among the Jewish students because freshmen have not yet 
arrived on campus.

"We support the university on this project, since we see it as a learning opportunity 
and we share the value of learning with the university," Mars said. "Four members 
of our staff are reading the book and are going to be leading discussion groups for 
Jewish students and other students. What I think is interesting is that one of the 
discussions is going to feature a rabbi, teaching about the Koran to Southern Baptist 
students and others."

Mars said students can disagree with the book, "and that would make for a great 
discussion, very much in the Jewish tradition of respecting a machlokes (disagreement). 
No one's being told to believe the text as a religious text, but I don't think you can 
deny the fact that this book analyzes an important text. It's a great opportunity for 
learning, and if people come in bothered and are able to express that feeling of 
bother in a respectful way, that is a very important part of learning."

Ted Weil, who runs a china and crystal retail store in Greenville, North Carolina, 
said the required reading did not offend his Jewish sensibilities.

"I didn't have a problem with this," Weil said. "Then again, I'm a very liberal person. 
My feeling is that they wanted to introduce them to Islam, like a comparative- religion 
class. It's not like they wanted to indoctrinate them to Islam."

Weil acknowledged that "it was probably not handled very tactfully. Had they said 
they needed to take a course on comparative religion, it would have been better."

Bramy Resnik, 73, a Holocaust survivor who taught German literature for 40 years 
at East Carolina University, said he thought the idea was "terrible. I cannot see 
anyone being forced to read the Koran. It should be a personal choice of the individual. 
Unless it becomes a national need to read the Koran, a university should not force a 
student to read it. They're not forcing people to read the Bible, the New Testament, 
the Old Testament, are they? Why not read Mein Kampf to learn about the 

As for the opt-out choice of writing a paper explaining a reluctance to read it, Resnik 
was adamant.

"Why should I? I don't think a student has to explain why he doesn't want to read the 
Koran. I know if I were to talk to my Christian friends they would agree with me."

The lawsuit is seeking an injunction prohibiting the program from going forward as 
scheduled on August 19.