Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Utter Moral Collapse of UNC, Chapel Hill

The Utter Moral Collapse of UNC, Chapel Hill:

Massive, systemic academic fraud at UNC, Chapel Hill revolving around its athletics department (particularly the high-power basketball team) has been detailed in an explosive investigation that if anything does not go far enough. Forbes reports:

An eight-month investigation by former federal prosecutor Kenneth L. Wainstein has found that more than 3100 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students – almost half of them athletes — were given credit for “irregular” (read: nonexistent) classes over an 18-year period from 1993-2011 as part of a organized scheme that allowed many to remain sports-eligible.

The Wainstein report — which the University of North Carolina (UNC) authorized and paid for — does not directly implicate any coach. [...] we didn’t receive a full-throated answer from Mr. Wainstein, perhaps because he was hired by the party that stands to lose the most from a comprehensive presentment.
It looks like it’s time for a rigorous outside investigation, and one can’t rule out criminal charges. While the report gives coaches a thick coat of whitewash—and skips almost completely over any University administration culpability—it nonetheless shows clear evidence of massive, systemic fraud over more than a decade. It looks too as if this wasn’t just a few high-profile athletes benefiting from no-show classes and plagiarized term papers. Particularly egregiously, vulnerable African-American students were sucked into what looks on the surface to be an African-American Studies department with zero oversight, accountability, or interest in the well-being of its students.

One wonders whether anybody will now accept a degree from this program as evidence of any academic achievement whatever. I’m a lifelong Tar Heels fan who grew up in Chapel Hill and has always seen UNC as a great university with a distinguished tradition. And yet, I personally could not recommend hiring anybody from it for an academic post without careful investigation to make sure that the applicant’s credentials aren’t bogus—a terrible burden to place on your grads. My personal sense of connection to the school, then, makes me even angrier about the whole thing.

This was complete ethical and educational lapse by one of the nation’s great public universities. Consider the irresponsibility and cynicism on display: as usual it is the most vulnerable students who are victimized by a scam (go to college for four years, play your heart out risking injury for zero pay, don’t get an education, and in the overwhelming majority of cases don’t make the pros) that makes powerful administrators and coaches look good.

Beyond this utter moral collapse of the entire chain of command up to department chairs, deans, provosts and, yes, presidents of the University of North Carolina—to say nothing of coaches who were grossly, even grotesquely, negligent and exhibited depraved indifference to the welfare of their student athletes if they didn’t know, and perhaps criminally complicit (don’t forget that federal funds are likely involved here) if they did—is yet another piece of evidence that the top level of college athletics in this country is badly broken. One suspects that UNC would not be standing alone in the Hall of Shame if we knew the details about other schools.

It is clear that UNC at least set a high value on a winning basketball program and zero value on the educational and moral upbringing of the young, mostly African-American students that it cynically exploited.