Fake classes. Easy A’s and B’s. Academic fraud.
At least nine University of North Carolina employees have been fired or placed under disciplinary review for taking part in a cheating scandal that stretched over two decades and impacted some 3,100 students.
Nearly half were athletes, particularly football players or members of the school’s legendary basketball program.
An eight-month investigation by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein uncovered what he called a “shadow curriculum” within the former African and Afro-American Studies Department from 1993 to 2011.
Former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro and retired office administrator Deborah Crowder were the driving forces.
Nyang’oro was indicted in December on a felony fraud charge, though it was dropped after he agreed to cooperate with Wainstein’s probe. Crowder was never charged.
Crowder started the paper classes to help struggling students with “watered-down requirements” after Nyang’oro became chairman in 1992, according to Wainstein’s report. Crowder registered students for the courses, assigned topics and handed out high grades regardless of the work and signed Nyang’oro’s name to grade rolls.
By 1999, Crowder began offering lecture classes that didn’t meet.
After Crowder’s retirement in 2009, Nyang’oro continued the phony classes for the football team and graded papers with high marks. He stepped down in 2011 amid questions about his behavior.
Julius Nyang’oro and Deborah Crowder are a disgrace. If jail time is possible, I would support it.
But what is going on in Chapel Hill is much larger than sports. More than half of the kids who were put in these classes were not UNC athletes. So what happens to the academic records of the kids who took those classes? Are their degrees no longer valid? Will they be required to make up the hours?
For those who see this as something new on the horizon, look again. This has been going on for years – and usually it was the kids who paid the price.
Creighton University basketball player Kevin Ross was functionally illiterate when he left the school in 1982. Chicago teacher Marva Collins taught him to read.
Oklahoma State University star Dexter Manley, who went on to an All-Pro career with Washington after leaving school in 1981, almost made it to the age of 30 without being able to read.
Corruption in college sports is nothing new. About a century ago, football players would take the field on Saturday under one name, then turn around on Sunday and play for the pro team under another name.
I saw it firsthand as an English TA at the University of Colorado. I worked with a number of athletes who could barely function, trying to teach them things they should have learned in middle school. I ended up quitting the job when a football program official tried to get me to write papers for the players.
Too many kids fall in line because of the carrot. They see sports as a “way out,” and get used by the programs that recruit them, use them up, and toss them aside. We need to do a better job of giving our children more career options that do not include running and jumping.
And such things are not limited to the college level.
About a decade ago, I taught at a high school in Baltimore in which a principal would inflate the grades of kids to make her graduation numbers look better.
One kid was a starter on the state championship basketball team and enrolled in my English class. He never came to class. When I asked her about him, she told me not to worry about it.
Another at the same school kid was not a jock, but a kid who plagiarized the final paper in my senior level English class. He and another boy simply swapped out the title pages. I failed him. Then I was called into the principal’s office four times and pressured to pass the kid so he could graduate.
A year later, that same principal and school were featured on an HBO documentary, where she was filmed doing the same thing on a mass scale — inflating grades. She finally was fired.
But the damage had been done.
None of these people are doing kids any good. And they are making it worse for the kids who do work hard, do have integrity — but are lumped in nonetheless with those who were allowed to skate.
We have to do better…