Student Calls 9/11 Course ‘Most Rewarding’ of Time at UNC

Debate has focused on a course at UNC after a student wrote a column saying the class sympathized with terrorists.

Alec Dent is a first year student from Lumberton who brought attention to a seminar at Carolina called ‘Literature of 9/11.’

Dent’s column appeared in an online publication – The College Fix, which bills itself as “Your Daily Dose of RIGHT-Minded News and Commentary” – saying the class told the story of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US from the perspective of “radical Islamists and those who view America as an imperialist nation.” Dent says that his editor at the College Fix brought the story idea to him.

“I went over the reading list. I read about the course, the syllabus and previous reviews,” he says. “My article is more about having a fair and balanced environment in the classroom, because the reading list, to me, raised some serious questions about whether or not the course was approaching the situation in a fair and balanced manner.”

Dent received national attention for his article, from Fox News to the L.A. Times.

However, the article has been receiving some backlash after Dent admitted he has not actually taken the course. Dent also says he did not speak with anyone who had taken the course when writing his article.

“No, I wasn’t able to reach out to anyone who had taken the course,” he says. “I did attempt to get in contact with the professor when I was writing my article, because I thought it was important to get his perspective on the issue. But, unfortunately, I never got a response.”

Despite these factors, Dent says he still feels he was qualified to write the article. Dent says his research for the column consisted of reading reviews of the course from other students and reading a synopsis of each of the books involved in the seminar.

Alec Dragelin graduated from UNC in May of this year. Dragelin tells WCHL he took the course in question during his first year at Carolina in 2011. Dragelin commented on Dent’s column saying he has missed the mark with his story.

“In general, it was probably one of the most rewarding classes that I ever took,” he says. “It was challenging, because I had to look at perspectives and viewpoints that I didn’t agree with…but it was eye opening at the same time. And in no way, shape or form did it sympathize or empathize with the terrorist perspective.

“We had all people from all different walks of life, all different political perspectives, and I think we all benefited from it greatly.”

Dragelin says, based off of the book list, it doesn’t look like the class has changed since he took the seminar four years ago. He says seeing the negative reaction to the course has been frustrating for him.

“Neel Ahuja, the professor, was an amazing professor,” he says. “And he taught the course really well. And we learned a lot from it.”

Dent says it wasn’t his intention in writing the column to quiet one point of view on campus.

“I think it is a good idea to present students with the perspective of terrorists,” he says, “just, sort of, to challenge their beliefs and help them grow in their own beliefs, maybe help them understand why they believe something.

“But at the same time, if you’re going to do that, I feel you have to present it from the American perspective as well.”

Dent adds he does not want the course to be removed from the curriculum.

“I don’t want to see the class removed,” he says. “That’s not the stance I’m taking here. I just want to see a fair and balanced approach to the subject.”

The UNC College Republican group has been circulating a petition, which serves as an open letter to Chancellor Folt, the Board of Trustees, and the Board of Governors, among other constituents, to reform the course – calling it an “embarrassment” to the university. Dent is a member of the Carolina College Republicans, according to the group’s twitter page.

UNC issued a statement regarding the seminar that reads, in part, “The ability to bring differing points of view goes beyond the classroom; each year, student organizations invite speakers representing their own platforms that, collectively, offer an array of diverse ideologies from the left and right that lead to intellectual debate and discovery.”

Chansky’s Notebook: From Good to GREAT?

The Tar Heels can make a good season GREAT by beating South Carolina.

Of course it’s a 12-game schedule and of course it’s too early to say one game can make or break Carolina’s 2015 team. But the opener against South Carolina Thursday night in Charlotte can certainly springboard the Tar Heels to a great year. A loss would leave them having to make up for lost ground with three soft opponents to follow in order to win those eight, nine or 10 games that define good and great seasons. Simply, this is one they can’t get back if they lose.

And this is a winnable game, not like Larry Fedora’s debut as UNC’s coach at South Carolina four years ago. These are not the Gamecocks that won 11 games for three straight seasons; they are the Gamecocks that had to win a bowl game to finish 7-6 in 2014; the Tar Heels lost their bowl game and wound up 6-7.

We will find out how much of a difference coaching makes on defense. The hiring of Gene Chizik got mixed reviews because he had sterling recommendations from almost everyone but, after all, he did leave Auburn with lots of rumors flying. And Auburn is synonymous with the kind of football program Carolina no longer wants to be. Chizik may have changed the scheme back to a traditional 4-3, but he has mostly the same players who ranked near the bottom of college football in several defensive categories.

Even if Steve Spurrier’s team puts up, say, 28 points, Fedora’s offense has the experience and talent to outscore that. Ten starters return and the backfield is loaded from Marquise to T.J. to Elijah and on the flanks with Switzer, Quinshad and big Bug. Carolina has to run the ball and control the clock, but take the quick strike when it’s there, and do not settle for field goals in the red zone. Anxious to see freshman Corbin Daly punt the ball and whether he can leave Spurrier’s offense with long fields to navigate.

In 25 years of coaching, Spurrier has a 226-85 record, averaging better than 9 wins per season. But this South Carolina team is lacking for star power beyond junior scat back Pharaoh Cooper, a North Carolinian who went south of the border. The Gamecocks’ starting quarterback is red-shirt freshman Connor Mitch, who played at Wakefield in Raleigh, and how the Tar Heel defense gets after him and contains Cooper will be too big keys to the game . . .and taking that first step toward a GREAT season.

2 Chapel Hill Businesses Added to Wrongful-Death Lawsuit

The two bars that 20-year-old Chandler Kania visited the night that he allegedly drove his 2005 Jeep Wrangler the wrong way on I-85 and hit another vehicle head on, killing three people, have now been added to a wrongful death lawsuit.

Multiple media outlets are reporting the lawsuit that was filed by the daughter of one of the women killed last month has now expanded to include ownership groups of Chapel Hill establishments La Residence and He’s Not Here. Kania allegedly used a fake ID to purchase alcohol and stopped at both businesses before the crash.

The initial lawsuit only included allegations against Kania’s family.

Tests show Kania’s blood-alcohol content was a .17 the night of the crash, more than twice the legal limit to drive in North Carolina.

49-year-old Felicia Harris, of Charlotte, 46-year-old Darlene McGee, of Charlotte, and six-year-old Jahnice Baird, of Brooklyn, were killed in the crash. Nine-year-old Jahnia King was the lone survivor from the Suzuki driven by Harris; she suffered two broken bones in her left leg and a broken right collarbone, according to officials.

A spokesperson for the North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Commission told WCHL that the state agency received the report from North Carolina’s Alcohol Law Enforcement and local authorities last week, and they are now reviewing the data before making a decision regarding regulations at either business.

Chandler Kania, who would have been going into his junior year at UNC, is under house arrest after posting a $1 million bond. He’s awaiting trial on three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, one count of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on an interstate, careless and reckless driving, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

Stroman On Sports: The Season Begins

With the season getting underway Thursday, a returning star quarterback, and a new defensive coordinator in town, there’s a lot of excitement about Carolina football in Chapel Hill.

What’s in store for the 2015 Tar Heels?

UNC professor and sports commentator Deb Stroman joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Monday. (They also discussed oft-injured Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III – and how to resist the temptation to put players in harm’s way when there’s so much money at stake.)

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt on SACS, NOA, Silent Sam and more

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt has just started her third academic year at the helm of UNC. She spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge about a number of campus-related topics.

You can hear the different segments of the discussion below:

Folt discusses her major priorities for the new year and a self-evaluation of her first two years on the job:


Folt on what she is hearing from the Carolina community in the wake of the ongoing NCAA investigation and accreditation review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


Folt on the recent spray paintings of Silent Sam and the renaming of Saunders Hall.


Folt on campus issues including underage drinking, sexual assault, and overall campus safety.


Folt on college affordability and accessibility as well as her vision of the future of the university.

Weekend Sports Roundup

While the UNC football team has to wait until Thursday to get its season started, several other Carolina teams were in action over the weekend.

On the soccer pitch, the Carolina women’s soccer team continued its impressive stretch to start the season with two more victories over the weekend. The Tar Heels knocked off the Texas Longhorns 2-0 on Friday night and followed that up with a 5-0 win against the University of Texas at San Antonio, on Sunday. UNC has now won its first four matches of the season by a combined score of 17-0.

Meanwhile, the men’s side got into the action for the first time over the weekend. Carolina won twice with victories over Florida International and Santa Clara, by a cumulative 4-0 score.

The North Carolina field hockey team got off to a very strong start to its season, winning twice by a score 2-1, against Michigan on Saturday afternoon followed by a victory over Iowa on Sunday as part of the ACC/Big Ten challenge.

Finally, the UNC volleyball team picked up its first win of the 2015 season with a sweep of Chicago State on Saturday night in Carolina’s final match of the Women of Troy Baden Invitational. The Tar Heels lost to Southern California and BYU in its opening two matches at the tournament before coming into form against Chicago State.

And in high school football, in the game WCHL game of the week, East Chapel Hill knocked off Carrboro at Carrboro High 30-27; Chapel Hill beat South Granville 46-29; Orange High got a comeback victory over Northern Durham 20-13; Charlotte Latin beat Northwood 48-13; and Jordan Matthews got past Cedar Ridge 40-29.

10 Years After Katrina, New Orleans has ‘Never Been in Better Shape’ to Protect from Storms

Saturday marks 10 years since Hurricane Katrina washed away much of New Orleans, and one UNC faculty member has been along for the ride from the storm’s approach through the rebuilding of the city.

Rick Luettich is the Director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at UNC Chapel Hill, and he works out of a satellite location in Morehead City. He vividly recalls monitoring models of Hurricane Katrina as it barreled into Louisiana on August 29, 2005.

“[The models] suggested a bad storm, a storm where water levels got high and, in some cases, may have exceeded the protection system that was there,” he says. “But into the evening and into the night, after dark, we didn’t anticipate the massive failures and the catastrophe that occurred.

“And that didn’t start to become evident until the sun came up the next morning.”

When the sun came up the devastation was overwhelming. The nation watched as families were stranded, standing on their rooftops hoping to flag down a rescue squad that had enough room to bring on additional survivors. We still don’t know for sure how many people died during the hurricane and the subsequent flooding, estimates range from 1,200 to more than 1,800. Damage totaled an estimated $108 billion.

The massive number of fatalities and damage was brought about because of the failure of the levees that were designed to protect the below-sea-level city.

“Not because the water in many areas had gone over the top of them,” Luettich says, “but simply because they had failed prior to reaching their design elevation.”

Luettich says that protection against flooding wasn’t new for New Orleans. They’ve been threatened for hundreds of years from the mighty Mississippi River in addition to the coastal waters.

In the two years following Hurricane Katrina, Luettich was one the prominent researchers studying the forensic data to find out what happened and what needed to be done to keep it from happening again, including rebuilding levees that would sustain the city.

“The modeling system that we have was used to understand and predict how high that needed to be,” he says, “whether it was 12 feet above sea level, or 25 feet above sea level, or what, around the entire perimeter of the city.”

Luettich says no matter how much preparation you put into protecting the city, there are certain challenges that will never subside.

“The biggest challenge that Louisiana faces is its geography,” he says, “its elevation relative to sea level, the fact that it’s sinking. That’s their biggest challenge.

“Probably the second biggest challenge is simply the high potential for storms going there. As you map out historical storm paths, southern Louisiana is a hot spot for those hitting.”

Luettich adds that New Orleans is in better position to protect itself today than it ever has been in the past, but that is still no guarantee.

“It will be a constant battle, if you will, between man and nature so long as New Orleans continues to be inhabited,” he says. “It’s easy to anticipate the next 50, maybe even 100 years there.

“But even as you look to much longer time spans – several hundred years henceforth – and predicted sea level rises, it becomes a much bigger challenge to wonder how long New Orleans can hold on.”

Luettich says, “I’d love to be able to come back every 50 years for the next several centuries and just peek at it.”

Charges Against UNC BOG Member Parrish Dismissed

***UPDATE: A member of the Wake County Clerk of Court’s Office has told WCHL that the charges against Parrish have been dismissed.***

A member of the UNC Board of Governors is due in court Wednesday morning.

61-year-old R. Doyle Parrish is scheduled to appear in Wake County Court on a simple assault charge following his arrest at his Raleigh home on May 12 after a report was filed by his wife Nancy Parrish – who the report lists as the victim.

READ MORE: UNC Board of Governors Member Arrested in Alleged Domestic Assault

Parrish was appointed to a four-year term on the Board of Governors by the North Carolina House in 2013. Parrish began a leave of absence from the board in July and resigned his post on the search committee, which is looking for the next leader of the UNC system after the board announced in January that Tom Ross would be removed from that position.

READ MORE: Parrish Resigns from UNC Search Committee Amid Domestic Violence Allegations

UNC System Spokesperson Joni Worthington wrote in an e-mail to WCHL on June 29 that, “While many members of the Board of Governors are likely aware of news reports about the allegations regarding Mr. Parrish, this matter remains in the hands of law enforcement and the judicial process, which are in the best position to address it at this time.”

Worthington was responding on behalf of University Governance Committee Chair Joan MacNeill, who was the recipient of WCHL’s original e-mail requesting comment.

READ MORE: Removing a Member of the Board of Governors

University policy states that the Chair of the University Governance Committee, MacNeill in this scenario, would be responsible for submitting a written specification of reasons to consider the board member’s removal.

Clear guidelines are put forward in university policy detailing the removal of a board member for missing a number of meetings or being appointed to a conflicting board, however, there is no clear policy for handling criminal charges being levied against board members.

Researchers Use Smartphones To Track Flu on College Campuses

Katherine Heller is a statistician and assistant professor at Duke University. She and UNC epidemiologist Allison Aiello teamed up with researchers at the University of Michigan to see how a smartphone can help report and predict the spread of influenza on a college campus.

“This kind of data collection technique where we’re recording more data on a personalized level, on a more frequent basis, about people’s health, can be really beneficial in terms of the predictions that we’re going to be able to make or the advice that we’re going to be able to give people,” says Heller.

Using an Android app called iEpi, Heller and associates tracked the health and location data from 100 students at the University of Michigan over a 10-week period during flu season.

Students logged their symptoms on a weekly basis while their phones used GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies to monitor where they went and who they came in contact with.

Students also offered throat swabs for testing if their symptoms suggested they might have the flu. Taken together, these data made it possible to successfully predict who might get the disease next, and to offer iEpi app users a personalized daily health forecast.

Heller says this is part of a trend towards more individualized health care.

“Trying to record more individualized information about each person is really helping allow us to develop these kinds of algorithms where we can do prediction and recommendation about much more person-specific kinds of health advice.”

At the larger level, Heller says this kind of reporting could change how epidemiologists track the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases.

“This gives us much more insight into how disease is being communicated from one person to another, so something like an isolation intervention we might find is very effective in terms of trying to get some disease under control.”

Heller suggests it may prove useful for those with chronic health conditions as well.

“I think it also applies to a lot of other areas of medicine where we can potentially do a much better job if we’re tracking information about patients like diabetics or various other kinds of chronic diseases much more carefully and more continuously than we are currently. That will really aid physicians in being able to treat them.”

Flu season ramps up in October and runs through the spring. This year, one in five college students are expected to get the flu, and close living quarters can help fuel its spread. Officials say vaccination is the best protection.

UNC Launches New Academic Support Website for Student-Athletes

UNC has launched a new website centered on academic services for student-athletes.

The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes at UNC announced the new website that offers information regarding all of the academic support services offered to student-athletes at Carolina, according to the ASPSA Director Michelle Brown.

“The website doesn’t change or doesn’t present new services,” she says. “It gives us an opportunity to showcase the services to the prospective families and student athletes, our current students and our faculty members.”

UNC has an estimated 800 student-athletes spanning 28 sports.

Brown has been at UNC for nearly two and a half years. She says that, since the uncovering of the paper-class scandal at UNC, several new programs have been implemented.

“One of the largest, and the newer, services that we offer is the MAP program,” she says, “which is My Academic Plan. It replaces a traditional study hall program.

“My Academic Plan is more of an individualized plan where it takes into consideration the student’s needs.”

Brown adds they are working to continue the support beyond traditional programs.

“We are taking the skills and knowledge from each individual, putting the learning specialist in there and cross training across from academic counselors,” she says, “so that we can understand how a student would need to study and what they might need to focus on.

“We also have some guided study sessions where we then, in the study hall-environment where they will be studying, practice those skills.”

The university’s website says ASPSA “helps student-athletes explore their interests and abilities and provides numerous academic services, including tutoring, secondary academic and career advising, and University and NCAA eligibility.”

Brown says the new website will better showcase the services being provided to current and prospective student-athletes as well as faculty and administrators.

“This is a place where faculty can come to, to see what services we’re providing [and] find out other faculty committees and groups that are there for them,” she says. “One of the premier parts of the website is the place to showcase the students and their academic achievements.”

Brown adds general population students at Carolina are offered similar services as the student-athletes are provided, but the oversight of the students is not as regimented.