In this week’s edition of UNC’s “As the Academic Scandal Turns,” yet another significant piece of information has been leaked. A whistle blower has emerged, thus bringing the news once again back into the forefront. Finally a source willing to put a name with her quotes has stepped up. The NCAA will surely have to work harder now to unearth all of the details, right?
The Raleigh News & Observer’s Dan Kane took a direct shot at North Carolina’s credibility when he published the news that a former academic adviser witnessed and was willing to come forward about blatant cheating during her time as a “reading specialist.” Mary Willingham is the former adviser who stepped forward, saying she was surprised and disturbed by what was going on at the University. Willingham said she was willing to break the silence because of “her frustration over the muted culture of cheating at North Carolina.” According to the report, she stopped working with the athletes and eventually moved to a different department.
From the News & Observer:
Willingham, who still works at the university but not with athletes, said she lodged complaints at least two years before UNC’s academic problems erupted into scandal. She channeled some of her frustration into a thesis for her master’s degree, on the corrupting influence of big-money sports on university academics.
Among her assertions:
– The no-show classes that had been offered by the chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies date back at least to the time Willingham began working for the support program in 2003. Commonly known within the program as “paper classes,” they were billed as lecture classes, but the classes never met.
Willingham learned of them when she was asked to work with a female athlete on a paper. Willingham said the paper was a “cut-and-paste” job, but when she raised questions about it, staff members told her not to worry. The student later received a grade of B or better.
– Members of the men’s basketball team took no-show classes until the fall semester of 2009, when the team was assigned a new academic counselor. The new counselor was appalled to learn of the classes, and wanted no part of them. University records show the enrollments stopped that semester for basketball players, while they continued for football players.
– Numerous football and basketball players came to the university with academic histories that showed them incapable of doing college-level work, especially at one of the nation’s top public universities. … Some athletes told Willingham they had never read a book or written a paragraph, but they were placed in no-show classes that required a 20-page paper and came away with grades of B or better.
– Roughly five years ago, Bobbi Owen, the senior associate dean who had oversight of the academic support program, sought to rein in the number of independent studies offered by the African studies department, which by then averaged nearly 200 a year. Independent studies required no class time and often not much more than a term paper; they were popular with football and basketball players.
Willingham said she met with university attorneys at their request in mid 2010, during the NCAA investigation, to discuss what happened in 2008. She said they thanked her for coming, and never talked to her again. She said she never heard from the NCAA.
North Carolina is currently in the process of an internal review on the situation. Surely this new information will stir up more attention and perhaps bring about more dialogue in the public about it. The NCAA is said to be overseeing the internal review. The news from Willingham is certainly significant, as she is the first person to publicly put her name behind the assertions that North Carolina tolerated academic cheating. Keep in mind, her claims mentioned both football and basketball players.