Provost Jim Dean said cancelling the class is not a possibility. He praised the course’s professor, Neel Ahuja, who declined to comment.
“It’s a legitimate course, taught by a very skilled and well-known and popular faculty member who is well within his rights teaching this course,” he said. “Academic freedom is one of the things that distinguishes American universities in general — and the best universities in the world in general — and we defend it vigilantly, regardless of what ideological position is being portrayed.”
Junior Alex Contarino took English 72 in fall 2013.
“There was never a situation where you had to put your own personal beliefs on trial or defend them,” he said. “That’s not what the daily assignments, books or class was about.”
Junior Abigail Parlier is a peace, war and defense major currently enrolled in another of Ahuja’s classes. She said she would have taken English 72 if she had known about it as a freshman.
Parlier said Ahuja brought up the controversy for discussion after one of her classmates posted an article about English 72 in a class forum.
“It’s the same idea as the Holocaust class that we have at UNC. 9/11 is the same, especially from an American standpoint,” she said. “It’s a traumatic historical event, and there are a lot of perspectives to talk about.”
The College Republicans are petitioning UNC administrators to condemn the class, which they think is being “used to indoctrinate students against the very civilization that supports our studies.”
Dean said exposing students to a wide range of perspectives has been important at UNC for centuries.
“As a public university funded by taxpayer dollars, we have an important right and responsibility to support the Constitution of the United States, and the First Amendment of the Constitution is free speech.”