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


For immediate use

Aug. 22, 2002 -- No. 432

UNC chancellor to discuss Qur’an summer reading controversy, academic freedom

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2 p.m.

National Press Club "Afternoon Newsmaker" session

Murrow Room, National Press Club

529 14th St., NW, Washington, D.C.

As part of the National Press Club’s "Afternoon Newsmaker" series, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser will discuss "A Tempest in a Textbook: Academic Freedom and the Qur’an Controversy" on Tuesday (Aug. 27). The 2 p.m. session will be held in the Murrow Room of the National Press Club.

As part of its annual summer reading program, UNC asked all new freshmen and transfer students to read "Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations" and discuss their ideas in small groups on Aug. 19th. The assignment prompted a federal lawsuit from a Christian group claiming it was an unconstitutional violation of church and state. And a North Carolina General Assembly panel voted recently to withdraw funding for such programs and courses unless they address all religious viewpoints. That action and the legal challenge have helped fuel a new round of national debate about academic freedom and a university’s role in addressing controversial ideas – especially in the wake of 9-11.

Moeser was among about 180 faculty and staff volunteers who led the discussion groups focusing on "Approaching the Qur’an," written by Haverford College Professor Michael Sells and selected by a committee of UNC faculty, students and staff. Carolina’s reading program, now in its fourth year, is among activities aimed at making the orientation period before classes begin more meaningfully by reinforcing learning and the university’s academic purpose, Moeser says. The university wants freshmen to arrive on campus with the expectation that they will think and discuss different points of view throughout their time at Carolina.

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UNC contact: Mike McFarland, (919) 962-8593,

National Press Club contact:
Peter Hickman, (301) 530-1210 or (202) 662-7540 or 7593