University Requires Reading of Koran

And now the most absorbing two minutes in television, the latest from the wartime grapevine:

Required Reading
Entering freshmen at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this year are being required to read a book of excerpts from the Koran, and not only to read it, but to attend a mandatory discussion segment on the book in August. The book, titled Approaching the Qur'an, is described in a notice to incoming students as "35 suras, or short passages from the chief holy book of Islam that largely focus on the divine in the natural world and the principle of moral accountability in human life." There is no alternative assignment for students who may find the book offensive to their own religious beliefs. One state ACLU official called the requirement constitutionally "fishy" but state ACLU President John Boddie refused to comment.

What's the Other 80 Percent?
Meanwhile, at the University of South Carolina, a course called Women's Studies 797, is specifying that classroom participation will count for 20 percent of the grade. But, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education,  in order to participate in class, students must "acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism and other institutional forms of oppression exist." The professor, Lynne Weber, also says students must "agree to combat actively the myths and stereotypes about our own group and other groups."

Keeping a Close Eye on the Course
Meanwhile, out at the University of California at Berkeley, a graduate teaching assistant who wrote in the course catalog that "conservative thinkers" should look elsewhere besides his course is reversing himself. Snehal Shingavi says he didn't intend to suppress free speech with his warning to potential students of his course on The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance. But he now says all are welcome. The university says the course will be watched closely for openness.

Not Making the Grade on Paperwork
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ordered the National Education Association, the nation's largest teacher's union, to stop hassling members who object to having their dues money used for political purposes they oppose on religious grounds. Federal law permits union members with such objections to direct part of their dues money to charity instead of politics. The commission found that the NEA was requiring religious objectors not only to fill out detailed written forms every year and to get a signature from a religious official. In addition, the commission found the NEA was taking up to nine months to process the paperwork.