Oh…and don’t get caught next time.
Has the NCAA taken serious action against the University of North Carolina for 18 years of outrageous academic fraud? No.The organization placed the school’s football program on three years’ probation and banned it from the 2012 postseason, but that punishment was for other infractions too. Indeed, it is likely that the revelations about the fake courses credited to athletes and others resulted in no athletic sanctions at all. The NCAA’s position is that this is an academic rather than an athletic scandal. Funny, I seem to recall Penn State getting walloped with massive sanctions from the NCAA because it allowed an ex-assistant football coach to continue molesting little boys. That was a sick organizational culture scandal, and had nothing to do with the players on the field at all.
What would be a proper punishment for 18 years of allowing student athletes to play basketball and football while taking fake courses? I would say the forfeiting of every game played in by one of those fake students, and 18 years of being banned from inter-collegiate competition. Perhaps then what laughingly calls itself an institution of higher learning might begin to take steps to ensure that its diploma is worth the paper it’s printed on.
It would help if the body that purports to oversee academic integrity did its job. In August, it was announced that UNC-Chapel Hill was taken off the watch list of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, the commission that accredits the university. Andrew Westmoreland, president of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, is the head of the commission’s board of trustees. He said his board decided in June that no further monitoring reports were needed because the university had made a good-faith effort to address the scandal’s impact. The organization did not sanction UNC.
That’s right: a university admits that it allowed students to be credited for taking imaginary courses for almost two decades, claims it had no idea this was going on, duly allowed the fake students to play high-level intercollegiate sports and graduated them, thus certifying to the world that they were duly educated at an accredited university when in fact they were frauds, and the group charged with ensuring the integrity of such institutions shrugs it off as a forgivable lapse. Oh—Mr. Westmoreland called the scandal “tragic, but fascinating.”
It’s fascinating all right. The school allowed the fake students continue to defraud their employers, present and future, by not publicly withdrawing their diplomas. The NCAA allowed it to escape with a rap on the wrist, if that. And there will be no sanctions to assure the public that when a university accepts tuition from students to issue fake degrees based on non-existent courses, that university is held accountable and punished appropriately. Losing its accreditation is the minimum punishment that the University of North Carolina deserved.
Based on a risk-reward calculation, it seems that other universities will conclude that such audacious frauds make sense. Their graduates will learn, if nothing else, that lying and cheating pays.
I suppose that’s something. They’ll be well-prepared for a career in politics…or academia.