Yet More Shame At Chapel Hill
The motto of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is "Lux libertas," or "Light and Liberty." But it is all too clear that, in one department at least, way too many academic liberties were taken. And it took way too long to shine light on them.
Each revelation about the disgraceful academic lapses that took place within the African and Afro-American Studies Department has been more alarming and damaging than the last. But each time, the university leadership in general and Chancellor Holden Thorp in particular have failed to show enough concern or take decisive enough action. Meanwhile, the harm to the university's image grows lamentably deeper and broader.
It was bad enough last summer, when the first shoes began to drop. Mostly athletic ones. It was revealed that football player Michael McAdoo had received credit for a paper he didn't write - otherwise known as plagiarism. In his public statements, at least, Thorp seemed to soft-pedal the matter at the time, declining even to question Julius Nyang'oro, the professor involved.
Response Is Far From Adequate
Only after it became clear that this was just the tip of a formidable iceberg did the chancellor order an internal investigation. It showed that Nyang'oro had overseen 54 non-courses, for which credit was received though little academic work was ever done. But even then, it was erroneously concluded that no favoritism was shown to athletes in these sham courses, though the truth turned out to be exactly the opposite.
Throughout the scandal, the response of Thorp and others has continued to come across as weak and inadequate - and often seemingly aimed more at limiting negative public reaction than at getting at the heart of the problem and rooting it out.
This attitude is all the more indefensible considering that this scandal comes atop another tangentially related one that ended up costing football coach Butch Davis and athletics director Dick Baddour their jobs over phony tutoring and improper contacts between players and pro agents.
Now comes yet another expose by Dan Kane and Andrew Carter of The News & Observer of Raleigh, which is enough to turn any stomachs that weren't already churning.
It details how Nyang'oro, in an obvious effort to give a fraudulent academic boost to a bunch of favored jocks, rushed to create a "course" just before the start of last year's summer semester. Nineteen students were signed up, and 18 of them were football players. Oh, and the 19th was a former football player.
But there's more. Though the class was listed as following a lecture format, it turned out that there were no lectures - only "independent study," which presumably means students had to do nothing much to earn a grade. And the academic advisers who signed up the students knew the teacher wouldn't be doing any teaching.
Wade Hargrove, chairman of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, had this to say of this mess: "You can't love Carolina and not be heartbroken."
True. But not just heartbroken. You can't love Carolina and not be outraged at this sorry story and the inevitable undermining effect it has on the reputation of an otherwise proud institution that doesn't deserve this blot. Hargrove and his fellow trustees must demand more decisive action.
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