Another Outrage Surfaces at UNC
Voices crying in the wilderness have long been warning about the corrupting effect that the obsession with collegiate sports can have on scholastic integrity.
For years now, one of the most compelling of those voices has been that of Bill Friday, the long-retired former president of the University of North Carolina system. He once held forth eloquently on the subject as the lunch speaker at a Pilot newsroom retreat.
Ironically, Friday must now be finding it hard not to go running around yelling, "I told you so!"
The reason: The proud flagship of that UNC system, the Chapel Hill campus, now finds itself having to endure nationwide exposure and embarrassment as a result of just the kind of sports/academic scandal that Friday and others have warned about. And it seems to get worse every day.
The Peppers Transcript
There has already been much media coverage - and comment in this space - about the horrendous compromising of anything resembling professional standards that took place at Chapel Hill, centered on the university's Department of African and Afro-American Studies.
Under the leadership (or lack thereof) of the since-resigned Dr. Julius Nyang'oro, students - almost all of whom were in sports - got grades for dozens of academic "courses" that seem to have involved little or nothing in the way of things like actual lectures, class meetings and homework.
Now comes the icing on the cake, or at least the latest spicy layer. It seems that football star Julius Peppers, who brought UNC fame and fortune while a so-called "student-athlete" from 1998 till 2001, was virtually all athlete and no student during that -period, racking up 11 D's and F's.
The only counterbalancing grades he got were seven B's from - you guessed it - the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. And no one, apparently, batted an eyelash or expressed a qualm. Clearly, this kind of thing was going on well before 2007, which is as far back as the current investigation has chosen to go.
No Longer Tolerable
We have learned about this latest outrage as a result of yet another impressive bit of investigative reporting by The News & Observer of Raleigh. But this time around, it seems, N&O reporter Dan Kane might never have found out about the new/old angle if some N.C. State fans hadn't gotten ahold of Peppers' transcript on the UNC website and gleefully made maximum hay out of it.
Why were a former student's supposedly confidential academic records available on the Internet in the first place? The university owes us all an explanation on that one. In the meantime, though, of greater importance is the question of what we can learn from this sorry experience.
This much is obvious: It is past time to admit that "student-athletes" are all too often students in name only, with their "institutions of higher learning" all too often looking the other way while their standards are dragged through the mud for the sake of income and prestige.
Maybe there was a time when that could be tolerated with a wink. But in this day, when the U.S. is in danger of falling further behind other countries in the global academic race, it is a luxury we can no longer afford.
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