University Dispels Rumor Spread Online

By Rebecca Spence

Published December 05, 2007, issue of December 07, 2007.
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Officials at the University of Kentucky are trying to dispel a myth circulating on the Internet that it has canceled its Holocaust-related classes due to pressure from Muslim students.

Last April, the online rumor-mill began churning when someone mistook the letters “UK,” signifying the United Kingdom, for the University of Kentucky and amended a chain letter to state that “the University of Kentucky removed the Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offended’ the Muslim population which claims it never occurred.” The 27,000-student public university learned of the letter last spring when it began receiving irate e-mails and phone calls from concerned alumni and others.

Last month, in an attempt to set the record straight, leaders of the school went public with assurances that the information conveyed in the letter was false.

“The academic administration of the University of Kentucky would never permit such a grotesque lapse in its commitment to the principle of academic freedom,” Richard Greissman, the university’s assistant provost, said in a November 8 statement. “Let us bury this rumor.”

The University of Kentucky, where students can minor in Judaic studies, offers an intermediate-level history course on the Holocaust.

According to the investigative Web site, the rumor isn’t even true in reference to the United Kingdom. In its investigation, the Web site found that one history department at a school in Northern England did, in fact, cancel a Holocaust class, but this was an isolated incident.

A spokeswoman for the University of Kentucky, Allison Elliott, said that the 142-year-old institution received hundreds of inquiries from around the country. Last week, she said, the school received an angry letter from a doctor in New York. The university has been responding individually to each call or letter, Elliott said, but in recent weeks the volume of inquiries increased, leading the school to issue a robust rebuttal.

“Previously we felt it was just an Internet rumor and not worth the dignity of a response,” she said. “But we recently felt it necessary to reassure people it was just a rumor.”

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