The U.N.C. Scandal Accountability: No Punishment, Just “It’s OK…Just Don’t Do It Again”

Oh…and don’t get caught next time.

"BAD University! BAD! OK, that's over---keep on doing your lazy, sloppy job for obscene tuition fees...."

“BAD University! BAD! OK, that’s over—keep on doing your lazy, sloppy job for obscene tuition fees….”

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.


Pointer: Fred

Sources: News Observer, ESPN, Penn Live


7 thoughts on “The U.N.C. Scandal Accountability: No Punishment, Just “It’s OK…Just Don’t Do It Again”

  1. Actually, most other Universities won’t care. This kind of fraud has been going on since at least 1970, at every major (Tier 1) university. A poll of every college graduate from 1970 on asking one question “Do you recall ever sharing a classroom with a major athlete?” would yield almost 100% “No”‘s.

  2. Don’t know the laws in other states but in Texas we have the “top ten percent rule”. A student who graduates in the top ten percent of his or her high school class is guaranteed admission into any publicly funded university or college in Texas. Unfortunately, we have many, many high schools in which the top ten percent of students may not even know how to read yet they are guaranteed admission. The idea was to create diversity but what it really created was a huge population of non-college-ready students in which the universities were forced to grant admission. Not sure of the exact percent but the University of Texas had a forced admission rate of somewhere near 70%. I believe that was the cause of so many of the remedial classes that we now see in Texas colleges and universities. I can see how someone might want to help these students who get to college and find themselves overwhelmed and unable to compete with other students who were admitted under a more legitimate criteria. I can also see how this population of students can become so large and the deficits become so profound that remediation is not even helpful. I’m sure the universities are under pressure to present a certain graduation rate for these students so the question becomes…how do you makes sure a large group of students who are in no way prepared for higher education actually graduate? Same thing they do in public school…whatever it takes to pass them right through. Even if that means classes that aren’t even real classes. In the beginning, the problem which needed to be solved was more along the lines of equal access to education but somewhere it turned into this horrible idea that there needed to be equal outcomes in education.

    • You do remember the case many years ago of the UT professor who quoted a statistic, namely that some percentage of African-American students will not graduate, yes? He was pilloried and threatened with firing unless he apologized immediately. For quoting a quite accurate statistic. No great surprise who was involved at UNC, then.

      • Dragon…I have no doubt that happened. I just have a hard time keeping up with all the people who say things and then have to take it back because someone got upset.

  3. This story also proves that colleges are no more capable of policing themselves than the media, government or Hollywood. When you’ve replaced rigid concepts of integrity with a culture of relative morality, this is going to be the result. The games aside, what happened at UNC was a matter of institutionalized fraud against academics and the taxpayers of North Carolina for financing a farce. Those who participated in it should be prosecuted. Does anyone think that the time has come to abolish athletic scholarships?

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