Department of Education, Title VI investigation -- Duke faculty respond

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We appreciate the recent statement on academic freedom from President Price and Provost Kornbluth following the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East studies. We also welcome the letter to the DOE from 18 American academic associations -- including the Middle East Studies Association, the Modern Language Association, and the American Anthropological Association -- who characterized the investigation as “an unprecedented and counterproductive intervention into academic curricula and programming that threatens the integrity and autonomy of our country’s institutions of higher education.”

The Federal investigation is the culmination of a decades-long campaign by anti-Palestinian organizations against academic programing and curricular offerings that are deemed insufficiently “pro-Israel.” This investigation targeted a Middle East center, but should concern all of us. Today, all teachers and scholars are at risk when not aligned with national policy and national security priorities. At stake, in the current moment, is the ability of Universities to operate freely and openly without the fear of censure, and the ability of faculty to determine what they “teach, how they teach it, what they choose to research or write about, or who can speak on our campus” (Kornbluth and Price). Duke’s continued commitment to open debate is vital. The integrity of our University demands an educational climate where free and open inquiry is encouraged and fostered, in and out of the classroom, even on the most controversial subjects.

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