Today, we remember 9/11 across the University.  It is a solemn day that has affected the canvas of our nation in many ways.  Recently, as many know, a first-year seminar course entitled Literature of 9/11 came under scrutiny.  Provost Jim Dean penned an email to concerned people who wrote to the University.  It provides some facts that we gathered over the past week that we’d like to share more widely.

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Thank you for sharing your concerns about our First-Year Seminar, English 72: “The Literature of 9/11.” Chancellor Folt was also troubled when she first learned what was being reported about this class. She immediately asked me to investigate and gather the facts.

Here is some of what we’ve learned:

  • The original Internet article was a blog post written by a new first-year UNC-Chapel Hill student who has publicly acknowledged that he isn’t enrolled in the seminar and didn’t read the books on the course list. We respect his right to express his opinions. However, the article was misleading and inaccurate.
  • This first-year seminar is not required and has been offered every year since 2010. New students choose to take this popular course. Twenty-five students registered for this fall’s seminar – one more than the normal limit – from a total first-year class of about 4,000 students.
  • The readings cover a broad range of materials providing different opinions including the perspectives of residents of New York City, members of the U.S. military and their families, survivors of the attacks, non-partisan terrorism researchers, and excerpts from the non-partisan 9/11 Commission Report. The full list includes national and international prize-winning books and best-sellers, as well as a book made into a movie. I encourage you to visit http://lit911.web.unc.edu/schedule/ for a full description of the seminar and materials.
  • Students who have taken the course say it does not attempt to indoctrinate them. For example, one student posted this online comment: “the entire course was in the style of ‘this is what this certain people believe/ how they responded’ and not ‘this is what you ought to believe.’ In no way did I come out of the class feeling pushed to believe the US was imperialistic, nor feeling in any way sympathetic toward terrorism.
  • Other students and alumni have raised their own concerns about the accuracy of the original article. This comment is representative: “As someone who took this class at UNC, I strongly disagree with this article. The class would be more aptly named, “The Cultural Impact of 9/11,” and considering the class as I took it in 2011, much of this article is untrue.” 
  • The faculty member is in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and has taught this same seminar five previous times. He is highly rated by his students in end-of-semester course evaluations. More specifically, they cite how he treats all students with respect and effectively encourages them to participate in class.

Chancellor Folt and I share your horror over the tragic events of 9/11. The Carolina community lost several members on that day, and our campus came together to honor them by creating a memorial garden to permanently celebrate their lives. On a personal level, I recently visited the 9/11 Shrine and Chapel in the Pentagon, and was moved to tears thinking about the innocent civilians and military men and women who lost their lives there that day.

Over the past several years, the University has significantly strengthened support for the military. We currently enroll the largest number of veterans since post World War II and have many active duty and retired military members involved in our campus programs. Faculty teach more than 60 courses exploring military history, and our ROTC program is strong and well respected. We recently launched the UNC Core program to provide an online option for service members at in-state tuition rates. They can take general education requirements online and transfer the credits to any UNC system university. The Kenan-Flagler Business School teaches executive development programs for senior leaders from all military services to accelerate transitions to new executive leadership roles. Those are just a few highlights from a rapidly growing list of programs and initiatives now focusing intensely on supporting members of the military. We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made on this front, and are encouraged about future opportunities to do even more.

Thank you again for sharing your concerns. I hope you find this information reassuring.

Sincerely,

James W. Dean, Jr.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

 

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