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A Letter from Five College Leaders to the U.S. Department of Education

Reed D. Rubinstein 
Acting General Counsel 
U.S. Department of Education 
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W. 
Room 6E300 
Washington, D.C. 20202 
Reed.Rubinstein@ed.gov

September 25, 2019 

Dear Acting General Counsel Rubinstein, 

As the chief executive and academic officers of the institutions in the Five College Consortium in Massachusetts—Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst—we write in response to your August 29, 2019, letter to Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill regarding the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies. 

As you know, academic freedom and freedom of inquiry are the foundations of American higher education. They are essential for the development of knowledge in a democratic society and critical to the scholarly and teaching missions of our institutions.  

On the basis of these foundational principles, we object strongly to the U.S. Department of Education’s effort to censure the curriculum of Middle East studies courses offered by Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By threatening to withhold federal funding, the Department of Education is setting a dangerous precedent, one that puts academic freedom at risk.  

Restricting freedom of inquiry contravenes the letter and spirit of the U.S. Department of Education’s own code. We urge you to uphold the principles of academic freedom on which this country has long depended for its rich and important history of scholarly excellence and societal advances. 

 

Biddy Martin
President, Amherst College

Edward Wingenbach
President, Hampshire College

Sonya Stephens
President, Mount Holyoke College

Kathleen McCartney
President, Smith College

Kumble Subbaswamy
Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Sarah Pfatteicher
Executive Director, Five Colleges, Incorporated

Catherine Epstein
Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Amherst College

Eva Rueschmann
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, Hampshire College

Jon Western
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, Mount Holyoke College

Michael Thurston
Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Smith College

John McCarthy
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Massachusetts Amherst