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Tarheels in Trouble
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 could not recommend hiring anybody from this department 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.

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.

This is a case of utter moral collapse of the entire chain of command up to department chairs, deans, provosts and, yes, presidents of the University of North Carolina. And then there are the coaches: either they were grossly, even grotesquely, negligent and exhibited depraved indifference to the welfare of their student athletes if they didn’t know what was going on, or perhaps criminally complicit (don’t forget that federal funds are likely involved here) if they did. That a well known and well respected athletic program at a famous university could have been this crooked for this long 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. 


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  • wigwag

    Whoa Nelly. It’s time to dismount your high horse, Professor Mead.

    The fact that the University of North Carolina is doing what every other university with a sports fixation does and giving its college athletes a pass when it comes to academic requirements is nothing to be surprised about. If any of this is news to you, you’ve been asleep at the wheel for the past couple of decades. The fact that college athletes are given course credit for doing essentially nothing is irrelevant to the value that the a UNC diploma represents for regular students who aren’t college athletes. If some unsuspecting UNC graduate answers one of your ads for an internship opportunity don’t worry; you can hire them without calling in the FBI to investigate whether they slept through psych 101 or any of the other inane courses most college students take.

    What all of this does demonstrate is how the enormous money associated with college sports corrupts the entire higher education enterprise. It would be far better just to pay college athletes whatever the market will bear than to engage in all the machinations necessary to deceive the public into believing that these athletes are really students.

    This is what capitalism does; it inspires the maximization of profits; it matters not an iota whether the institutions which seek to maximize those profits are given the less than consequential label of “not-for-profit.”

    Get used to it.

    • michaelj68

      It used to be that for college football games the broadcast would have the starting lineup and the players’ majors. You would see lots of Liberal Studies and Kinesology (fancy term for Phys Ed). I remember when RB Robert Smith was at Ohio State and expressed a desire to major in pre-med his coach John Cooper squashed that idea and made a comment Smith was there to play football. One of his famous teammates took a course in golf and if I remember right square dancing.

    • Tactile Touch

      What a bunch of crap. You keep hearing people say that this goes on everywhere. Subject matters differ: organic chemistry is just a more difficult subject matter than an introduction to political science. So yeah, some classes are just easier than others. And yes, athletes at most universities do get steered to those courses some. But they are real classes that require some level of work. You say this happens everywhere: name the school that has a system in place that thrived for 18 years that predominantly kept athletes eligible where not only were the classes 100% bogus, but the athletic department’s advisers told the ‘instructor’ what grade the ball player should be given. I think the list will be pretty short. Cheating at this level does not happen everywhere.

  • Andrew Allison

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED to learn that there’s been systematic academic fraud at UNC. It’s an open secret that such fraud is rampant. It would be nice to think that the blatant abuse at UNC would institute a system-wide clean-up, but I’m not holding my breath: as the post notes, the coaches and administration (who if they didn’t know full-well what was going on are not qualified for their positions) at UNC have been given a thick coat of whitewash.

  • Anthony

    Time to replace the NCAA with a baseball style farm system. Young guys who want to take their shot at being a professional athletes shouldn’t have to pretend to be students. If their athletic career doesn’t work out, then they can enter universities as proper students.

  • Chris Weaver

    The White Guilt culture inspired by so many in Chapel Hill and Rep. Graig
    Meyer is endemic. It is part and parcel of the Liberal Group think
    mentality of the area. It is IMPOSSIBLE to separate leftist politics
    from this scandal.
    What is the manifestation of White Guilt?
    Preferences, quotas… the soft bigotry of low expectations…and UNC
    scandals …..ANYTHING but Equality.
    This White Guilt is packaged in
    Chapel Hill and distributed everywhere in the country. Check Graig
    Meyer’s Youtube channel. Not only has he indoctrinated the Chapel hill
    School System, but those around the Nation as well.
    Google “Graig
    Meyer White Guilt” or “The truth about Graig Meyer”…. you will not
    find merit on content of character… only skin color… and this man is
    up for Election in Durham and Orange County…
    but you will not hear about it in any press….they have the same symptoms as UNC

  • Anthony

    It’s obvious that none of these student athletes were studying engineering or pre med.

    I am sadly coming to the conclusion that liberal arts degrees are, with some notable exceptions, a bit of a scam. Young people are told they need to go to college, and when they discover that they lack the IQ and/or the motivation to become engineers or doctors, the universities provide liberal arts degrees to keep them from dropping out. For these students, however, the day of reckoning is merely postponed. When they graduate with zero marketable skills – unless they went to an ivy league school, in which case wall street is an option – these kids receive a mega doge of economic reality.

    It worth emphasizing that liberal arts knowledge is enriching and can be intensely pleasurable. Luckily, that knowledge can be obtained at a local library for free.

  • GS

    One should look into the root of it. Looking at it broadly, the purpose of college is training [a certain stratum of] the workforce of tomorrow. Not the “general development” – a wasteful proposition if there has ever been any. And those who want to “find themselves” would be well advised to take up the pocket billiard instead. Which means that in college there should be no place for the gorilleries and babooneries of all kinds.

  • Fat_Man

    Do not think for a minute that UNC is unique in this respect. All colleges with successful big time athletic programs are more or less the same as UNC. There is no fix for the problem without separating big time big money athletics from education. But, don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

  • Curious Mayhem

    I’ve railing for years about the weird academic interaction between the PC and the AC: the politically correct and the athletically connected. The fact that the African-American Studies department (a product of the identity politics of the 1970s) was annexed by the athletics program at UNC/CH for such purposes confirms my impression in a way I would never have expected to be laid bare in public. Someone had a least a little honesty here and should be, at minimum, patted on the head and rewarded with a biscuit.

    Meanwhile, Duke is just down the road from Chapel Hill. Perhaps it should drop any pretenses and open a “sex worker practicum” to promote student internships with the adult entertainment industry. After all, they have a head start.

  • Anthony

    WigWag capsulizes it : “what all this does demonstrate is how the enormous money associated with college sports corrupts….’ And UNC at top tier money attaining sport is far from rare in exploiting student athletes.

    • Corlyss

      Gee! What’s left? Fed money corrupts the academic side; alum & tv money corrupts the sports side.

  • Richard Foster

    “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.” It is clear that Mead did not bother to read Wainstein’s report or he would never have written that sentence, and I suspect that most of those commenting, if not all, have not read the report either. Fifty-two percent of the almost 4,000 students taking these paper classes over the time period were not student-athletes. Of
    the student-athletes, these were overwhelmingly football players, not basketball players. There is no evidence that any basketball player was steered into taking any of these classes. Rather it was word of mouth from other students that they became aware of what was an “easy” class. All the basketball players interviewed by Wainstein stated that they researched and wrote their own papers which was not the case with many
    of the football players. Of the 52% non-student athletes, do you really think there weren’t pre-med and engineering majors who weren’t tempted into signing up for an easy class to reduce their heavy workload in their other classes and help maintain or boost their GPA? What college or university did you go to? Were you aware of the “easy” classes. At
    my small university it was well known that you could take Dr. Bond for sociology and get an easy A. This is not an athletic scandal, but an academic scandal caused by lack of oversight over what was happening within the African and Afro-American Studies department. Had the football team not gotten greedy and began steering their players into these courses, they may still be functioning today.

  • Brett Champion

    “One wonders whether anybody will now accept a degree from this program as evidence of any academic achievement whatever.”

    I think that’s a bit much. While this fraud involved thousands of students, it revolved around just one professor teaching an inconsequential subject matter. If an employer saw on someone’s transcripts that he took a class in African and Afro-American Studies, he wouldn’t give a thought one way or the other unless he were up for a job teaching in an African and Afro-American Studies program.

    Now, an employer might think twice, knowing what they know, because he would have to question the integrity of the individual before him if he saw such a class on a transcript from UNC. But very few employers bother looking at someone’s transcripts, and I doubt very many would request someone’s transcripts just because the applicant went to UNC.

  • FriendlyGoat

    When the athletic directors and coaches. as a group, are the highest paid public employees in the ENTIRE UNITED STATES, let alone just in the colleges, why do we expect anything else but this kind of activity to occur? I mean, seriously, we have lost our collective minds over sports mania.

    Cut the coach pay to $100,000 anywhere and everywhere and solve the problem.

  • demboj

    Please note that the real failure, here, was in the academic departments of UNC-Chapel Hill. Coaches do not give grades in African American studies, for example. Not one single faculty member apparently refused to go along with the scam. Not one single faculty member reported the scam. Also note that many, perhaps all, of the faculty members involved, were “fixed-term” faculty, meaning they were not protected by tenure and were thus easily coerced or “influenced” into cooperating or at least not reporting the scheme. These days most universities have practically stopped hiring tenure track faculty. It is my guess that all such universities are now sitting ducks for similar illegal plans.

  • stanbrown

    This is an academic scandal. That athletes were like other students in need of easy classes and inflated grades does not make it an athletic scandal. Are there similar things going on all over the country? Sure. Perhaps not as blatant or quite as ridiculous, but every university that prides itself on admissions policies which bring in certain groups who are not as prepared as the general student body will have some type of academic ghetto.

  • John Tyler

    The “utter moral collapse of university administrators and professors” are their UNCONSTITUTIONAL campus speech codes; their intentional discrimination , firing and denial of tenure to those who exibit the “wrong” thinking; preventing students from distributing copies of the US Constitution but allowing the distribution of Marxist propaganda; preventing commencement speeches by those who “think” wrong; assuming the roles of prosecuter , judge and executioner in the Stalinist show trials that pass as “hearings” in alleged rape cases; paying full professors well over $100,000 in salary to teach classes 10 HOURS PER WEEK for 7 MONTHS. Per calendar year; etc., etc.
    As for the UNC situation, this is a natural result of the racist and bigoted , politcally correct, left-wing , Orwellian ideology that dominates university academic thinking. This would never, ever be tolerated for “white” college sports programs like lacrosse, swimming, etc.
    The feigned “outrage” by the academic establishment is hypocrisy in its highest form.

  • vepxistqaosani

    But it was ever thus. My grandfather was a tutor to the champion Georgia Tech football team a hundred years ago (he was graduated in 1916). He complained the rest of his life of the dullness of the “scholar”-athletes in his care. Why, they couldn’t even handle the aorist mood in Classical Greek!

  • jim

    The idea that anybody at UNC on either the academic or athletic side was going to say “boo” about anything happening in the Af-Am department is ridiculous.

    All this episode shows is that black college students (including athletes) know a good thing when they see it just like white college students would. UNC’s problem is that they want to be diverse but don’t want to put the resources into tutoring to enable the black students to compete with a student body that probably includes half the valedictorians in NC every year.

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