Dept. of Education Orders Duke and UNC Chapel Hill to Remake Middle East Studies Program 

The U.S. Department of Education instructed Duke University (N.C.) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to reconstruct their collaborative Middle East studies program, according to The New York Times. The department concluded that the program placed a signifiant emphasis on the positive aspects of Islam but did not put any focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism or any other religion practiced in the Middle East. 

The investigation is a rare occasion of the federal government getting involved in specific course material at the college level. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos ordered the investigation to see if the program had misused of any of the money it received in a Title VI grant, which funds foreign language and international studies programs. 

Research and Education Manager at Jewish Voice for Peace Tallie Ben Daniel believes that the department’s investigation was an effort “to enforce a neoconservative agenda onto spaces of academic inquiry and exploration.” Palestinian rights groups have accused the department of intimidation and infringment on academic freedoms. 

However, Miriam Elman, an associate professor at Syracuse University (N.Y.) and the executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, an organization that opposes the boycott Israel movement, believes that “to get Title VI, you really have to strive for viewpoint diversity.” 

Atlanta Climate Protest Leads to Arrests 

Nineteen climate change protestors were arrested on Friday after they attempted to block lanes of traffic, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). About 200 people attended the movement to advocate for lawmakers to take direct action against climate change. The protesters moved from marching on the sidewalk into the street. Police officers surrounded the crowd to stop them from continuing down the street and forced the protestors back onto the sidewalk. The protest comes in the aftermath of a worldwide climate strike on Sept. 20.  

Education Department Finds Less Students Failing to Pay Back Federal Loans

The U.S. Department of Education announced that the proportion of students who failed to make payments on their federal student loans within three years of graduating college reached its lowest level in seven years. The department found that around 10 percent of student loan borrowers who began their repayment on Oct. 1, 2015, failed to pay by Sept. 30, 2018. This is about a 6.5 percent decline in the number of students who failed to pay their loans during the prior repayment period. The department also noted that cohort default rates, a three-year metric used to determine if schools are qualified to receive federal student aid, have also decreased. Additionally, the number of students entering repayment who attended community colleges or for-profit schools has declined over time, reflecting an overall decrease in enrollment at those types of schools.

Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball Team Banned From Postseason by NCAA

The NCAA announced Thursday that the Georgia Institute of Technology men’s basketball team would be banned from participating in postseason competition and placed under a four-year probation. According to the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, coaches Josh Pastner and Darryl LaBarrie allowed boosters from outside the organization to participate in various banned recruitment events. The NCAA describes boosters as individuals who “support teams and athletics departments through donations of time and financial resources which help student-athletes succeed on and off the playing field.” The recruitment activities included taking a high school recruit to an Atlanta strip club and allowing a booster to give gifts to potential transfer recruits and team members. In addition to the team’s probation and postseason ban, they will also face reduced recruitment programs for the upcoming season. 

Georgia Citizens Rally in Support of Refugees 

On Saturday, Georgia locals gathered to advocate in response to the federal government’s proposal to continue to cut down the number of immigrants allowed into the country, according to the AJC. On Thursday, the State Department issued a plan for Oct. 1 that would cap the number of allowed refugees at 18,000. About 200 people attended the rally to push their legislators to support the Guaranteed Refugee Admission Ceiling Enhancement Act, which would increase annual refugee acceptance to 95,000. Advocates believe that this number is essential in order to secure the U.S. modern refugee resettlement program.