- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Professors at North Carolina’s flagship public university said Friday that the school should give up national championships, turn away some profits generated by big-time sports and apologize to a campus whistleblower after the release of a report detailing a scheme that used fake grades to keep some athletes eligible for years.

Carol Folt, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, focused her latest monthly meeting with the school’s faculty council on an investigation that found university leaders and faculty members missed or ignored red flags over bogus grades and fake courses for nearly two decades. The results of the investigation were released last week.

The university should give up whatever number of past championships or future star sports recruits is necessary to underline that scholarship, not sporting revenues, are why the school exists, Sociology Professor Andrew Perrin said.

“To the extent a tradeoff is necessary, we as a university are prepared to make the tradeoff in the name of academic integrity,” he said.

The report by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein described a “shadow curriculum” within the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies Department that from 1993 to 2011 allowed more than 3,100 students - about half of them athletes - to take sham classes and earn artificially high grades.

History Professor Jay Smith said he thought the Wainstein report failed to address the tarnishing influence of big-money intercollegiate sports.

The academic fraud “was the result of a bunch of good people working in a corrupt system that forced them into unethical action,” he said. “We should not imagine that by removing a set of scapegoats, no matter how large that set is, that we’re really solving the problems.”

But UNC-CH can’t just reject its role as a national competitor in collegiate sports, Folt said. Public universities are pushed not only to teach, but to generate research that can be turned into new products, and to serve as a rallying point for its town and state through sports, she said.

“Do realize it’s not just Chapel Hill, it’s every university in America that’s trying to understand its full mission in a much-expanding world for what we try to do on campus,” Folt said.

James Dean, the school’s chief academic officer, said the scandal “does not define this university” because the number of students, courses and staffers involved were a small fraction of those who have attended or taught at the campus over so many years.

Several professors said the school should apologize to Mary Willingham, a former learning specialist who went public with her concerns about bogus grades and low reading levels for athletes. Willingham resigned in the spring, then sued the university, claiming administrators retaliated against her. A faculty council meeting in January was the forum for a detailed take-down of claims by Willingham that she had data showing some Tar Heel athletes were so academically unprepared they read at a middle-school level.

Dean declined to say whether Willingham deserved an apology, citing her lawsuit.


Emery Dalesio can be reached at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio.

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