FILE - In this July 16, 2019, file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. The Trump administration is threatening to cut grant funding to a Middle East studies program at the University of North Carolina and Duke University, saying it’s misusing federal funding to advance “ideological priorities” and unfairly promotes “the positive aspects of Islam” but not Christianity or Judaism. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

UNC denies claims of bias in Middle East studies program

September 23, 2019 - 3:49 pm

The University of North Carolina is disputing federal allegations of bias in a Middle East studies program it runs with Duke University.

In a letter Friday to the U.S. Department of Education, the university defended the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, saying it has been a leader in Middle Eastern language studies.

The department had said the consortium was breaking federal grant rules by focusing on cultural programs and placing too much emphasis on "the positive aspects of Islam" and not other religions.

UNC says that its Urdu language enrollment is the highest in the U.S. and that it organizes dozens of programs on national security annually. Still, the school said it will establish an "advisory board" to review consortium activities.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had ordered the investigation.