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UNC-Chapel Hill student gets national attention for calling course sympathetic to terrorists, despite not taking course

An essay penned by a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claiming a course at one of North Carolina’s flagship schools cast a favorable light on the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack has gone viral in the last week.

The freshman journalism student, Alec Dent, claimed in his essay published on the conservative news site College Fix that readings for the optional freshman seminar course “present terrorists in a sympathetic light and American political leaders as greedy, war hungry and corrupt.”

Problem is, as he told WRAL earlier this week, he didn’t actually take the class or read the listed materials.

UNC offers more than 80 seminar courses to its students but “Literature of 9/11” struck a chord with Dent. The course claims to explore a diverse number of themes related to the September 11 attacks, but for Dent it was not diverse enough.

“The class reading list is what first stuck out to me because it really got me thinking, is this a fair and balanced way of looking at the situation,” Dent said.

The freshman journalism major said that he looked at the reading list as well as the class syllabus before writing a piece for an online student publication called “The College Fix.”

Dent admits that he has not taken the class, nor has he read any of the books on the list, but he still felt the course was too one-sided.

“The more research I did into it, the more it seemed like the readings were sympathetic towards terrorism.”

A student who did do the reading and did take the class took issue with Dent’s description, saying that he enjoyed the class taught by Prof. Neel Ahuja, an associate professor in English at UNC, and found it was balanced.

Since Dent’s review was posted a week ago, it’s gone viral in conservative websites and media outlets, with outrage abounding.

Media Matters took a look at a Fox News segment, which had the header “Required Reading: UNC class sympathizes with 9/11 terrorists” and pointed out that the readings were not required, nor were they pushing a single point of view.

“In addition, the full list of assigned readings for the course does in fact contain diverse literature representing the perspectives of Arab-Americans, residents of New York City, members of the U.S. military and their families, survivors of the attacks, non-partisan terrorism researchers, artists, historians, musicians, and the international Muslim community, as well as several texts aimed to honor or memorialize victims of the attacks,” the Media Matters piece states.

Watch the Fox News segment for yourself below.

4 Comments


  1. LayintheSmakDown

    September 3, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    I am not sure what the problem is. Investigative journalism involves research and investigation. We don’t expect say a TV investigative journalist in those Channel X “on your side” stories to actually go in and get defrauded by the party being investigated so that they have experienced the consumer side of things. They look at the evidence and compile a story based on the evidence, just like this dude did. And the fact that there is a token voice to other perspectives (yes I looked at the list) does not mean there is an equal voice given to those perspectives. The full list provided just reinforces Dent’s reporting. If more journalists were this brave, then the “profession” would not be a dying one.

  2. John

    September 3, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Investigative journalism? Alec Dent did not do any credible research for his article. He did not take the course. He did not bother interviewing anyone who did. He did not interview the course instructor. He did not read any of the material on the reading list. He did not read Art Spiegelman’s “In the Shadow of No Towers”, Mohsin Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” or other materials that show no sympathy for the 9/11 terrorists. He did not read poems on the list written by relatives of 9/11 victims or the poem written in tribute to restaurant workers who died in the 9/11 attacks.

    In the absence of doing research to find out what the class materials were all about, he chose to invent a story of how UNC was teaching students to sympathize with the worldview of 9/11 terrorists. I wonder if Alec was surprised at how willing the far right media would be to pick up on his dishonest discourse to spread lies and false innuendo for political gain.

  3. LayintheSmakDown

    September 3, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    John,
    Even if you are knowledgeable enough to know if he actually did research or not, that would actually follow the mold of modern “journalism”. Most of the mainstream media, places like the pulse, some other blogs do not do any research and just post hysterical headlines with random “action” verbs meant to incite.

  4. Chana

    September 6, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Layinthesmackdown, no, you would not expect the journalists necessarily to get defrauded, but you would expect them to interview people who had been victims of the fraud, right? You’d expect them to track down materials having to do with the fraud, like company policies and documents, AND READ THEM, right? This kid neither talked to anyone who was taking the class nor read any document other than the syllabus. That’s not investigative journalism. To do that you have to investigate.

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