Letter: ​Faculty defend Literature of 9/11


We are disturbed by the attacks directed at our colleague Neel Ahuja’s first-year seminar, Literature of 9/11, an interdisciplinary course that gives students the opportunity to analyze the legacies of Sept. 11, 2001. These attacks, based solely on a part of the reading list, characterized the course — and by extension the professor — as sympathetic to terrorism. By now, others have shown that this conclusion is unsubstantiated.http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2015/09/conservatives-criticize-911-class-at-unc CVD

Yet a full examination of a syllabus, which outlines the texts, themes and topics for 15 weeks, could not tell the whole story. No one can predict the kinds of conversations that will take place in the classroom or what the professor and students will create together. A reading list does not tell us how texts are interpreted or connected to issues inside and outside the classroom. For example, if a reading list for a course on the Holocaust were to include “Mein Kampf,” should we decide that the professor supports Nazism?http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/ CVD

The mischaracterization of Ahuja’s class and the national media firestorm that followed suggest that the attacks are part of the larger, long-term project of those seeking to defund higher public education while setting the ideological agenda for what is left of it.

The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, which champions privatization, has released a series of essays that advocate slashing courses in English departments, women’s studies programs and general undergraduate curricula that do not fit the center’s narrow and ahistorical understanding of “western civilization” and “traditional canons.”http://www.popecenter.org/inquiry_papers/article.html?id=2920 CVD

The chilly climate that results from such attacks affects all students and teachers and especially graduate students and faculty without tenure. We are glad that UNC-Chapel Hill Provost James Dean and Faculty Council Chairman Bruce Cairns recognize that professors should determine the content of their courses, particularly in the face of local and national campaigns against faculty who work hard to broaden the curricula and students’ education. http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2015/09/conservatives-criticize-911-class-at-unc http://faccoun.unc.edu/about-1/chair-of-the-faculty/ Bruce Cairns

As many of his students have attested, Ahuja’s course teaches critical thinking which is necessary for understanding the world and our place in it.

Prof. Elyse Crystall

English and comparative literaturedir CVD

Prof. Karen Booth,

Women’s and gender studiesdir CVD

Prof. Sherryl Kleinman

Sociologydir CVD

Signing on behalf of 71 other UNC faculty members.

Michal Osterweil, Global Studies

Altha Cravey, Geography

Mark Driscoll, Asian Studies

Ariana Vigil, Women’s and Gender Studies

Jennifer Ho, English and Comparative Literature

Susan Bickford, Political Science

Nadia Yaqub, Asian Studies

Steve Wing, Epidemiology

Emilio del Valle Escalante, Romance Studies

Patrick O’Neill, English and Comparative Literature

Tamar R. Birckhead, Law School

Lien Truong, Art

Arturo Escobar, Anthropology

Rebecka Rutledge Fisher, English and Comparative Literature

Maxine Eichner, Law School

Rosa Perelmuter, Romance Studies

Carl Ernst, Religious Studies

Yaron Shemer, Asian Studies

Hilary Lithgow, English and Comparative Literature

Beth Grabowski, Art

Tanya L Shields, Women’s and Gender Studies

Minrose Gwin, English and Comparative Literature

Andrew Perrin, Sociology

Maria DeGuzman, English and Comparative Literature

William Ferris, History

Sara Smith, Geography

Rich Cante, Sexuality Studies

Lawrence Grossberg, Communication

Patricia Bryan, Law School

Jessica Wolfe, English and Comparative Literature

Lisa Lindsay, History

Alvaro Reyes, Geography

Stephen Lich, Economics

Brett Whalen, History

Jocelyn Chua, Anthropology

Louis A. Perez, Jr., History

Deborah Weissman, Law School

Hassan Melehy, Romance Studies

Jessica A. Boon, Religious Studies

Beth S. Posner, Law School

Scott Kirsch, Geography

Emily Burrill, Women’s and Gender Studies

Donald J. Raleigh, History

Jerma Jackson, History

Ruth Salvaggio, English and Comparative Literature

Andrea Cooper, Religious Studies

Elin o’hara slavick, Art

James Thompson, English and Comparative Literature

Julia Mack, Romance Studies

Stephanie Elizondo Griest, English and Comparative Literature

Don Nonini, Anthropology

Joseph Jordan, Stone Center

Hannelore Jarausch, Romance Studies

Michael Lambert, African, African American, and Diaspora Studies

Oswaldo Estrada, Romance Studies

Jamie Rosenthal, English and Comparative Literature

Eren Tasar, History

Trude Bennett, Emerita, Maternal and Child Health

Cristina Carrasco, Romance Studies

Valerie Lambert, Anthropology

Pello Huesa, Romance Studies

Gabriela Valdivia, Geography

Robin Visser, Asian Studies

Lauren Leve, Religious Studies

Jordynn Jack, English and Comparative Literature

Reginald Hildebrand, African, African American, and Diaspora Studies

Michael Palm, Communication

Victoria Martin, Romance Studies

Iqbal Sevea, History

Nina Martin, Geography

Barbara Fedders, Law School

Thanks for reading.

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