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Last month members of the Appropriations Committee of the North Carolina House of Representatives voted to use the power of the state budget to block the assignment of a book to all freshmen and transfer students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Approaching the Quran The Early Revelations White Cloud Press 1999 by Michael Sells a professor of religion at Haverford College Denying public funds to the reading program unless all other known religions were offered in an equal or incremental way they stipulated that their prohibition is not intended to interfere with academic freedom but to ensure that all religions are taught in a nondiscriminatory fashion Even if well intended however the move does in fact demonstrate the significant and growing threats to academic freedom that can occur in times of economic and political turmoil The controversy began in June when three unidentified freshmen sued the university in federal court arguing that assigning the book inappropriately blurred the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state The legislative committee then took its action and in response the university systems Board of Governors dithered over passing a resolution in support of academic freedom -- in part for fear of further alienating the states budget writers A resolution by a committee of the board passed unanimously on August 22 the full board will vote on the resolution on September 13 The legislative committees move signifies in a number of ways how much the independence of public colleges and universities may be in jeopardy First it inserts state politicians directly into the
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