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James Michael Brodie On October - 24 - 2014

English: Photo of exterior of the Student Unio...

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 Are their degrees no longer valid?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…

Written by James Michael Brodie

Writer/author -- I am a journalist who has written about education and other issues. I am also a former teacher in Baltimore City School System, grew up in Colorado. Have written a few books on Black history, and have 20 years experience as a journalist. As for politics, I guess I am a liberal-leaning Independent. I prefer conversation over shouting matches -- and feel free to call me on that when I fall out of line.

15 Responses so far.

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  1. Dbos says:

    I think your article is very good and I appreciate it as I was a history major researching and writing 15 papers per semester while others went to class and passed ; big ten great universities; Nc previously thought of as a superior academic institution; I Am sure they are totally embarrassed.

    • Nirek says:

      Dbos, NC should be embarrassed. The mission of a college is to educate students, not cheat them out of the education they are there for. Too many of the athletes that have been pushed through are black. They bring in plenty of revenue to the school but get nothing but a falsified diploma.

      This hurts more than just the 3100 people who have those falsified diplomas, it is hurting people working for minimum wage who could not get into college for whatever reason. (cost or desire to get into the work force)

      It also hurts those people who actually did the studying and earned their diploma. Because they will be looked at by an employer and seen as a cheater, too.

  2. Dbos says:

    As a former school teacher,high school principal and superintendent along with being a college football player in the Big ten; there are what is called bridge programs to help student acclimate to college. There are many students who do not adjust and simply languish in these courses but i’ve seen students get a leg up and go on and become scholars ;doctors, lawyers and professors . The bridge program was probably what brought on these abuses; bad administrators in concert with other un scrupulous leaders. I bring this up to say sometimes these programs when done correctly give a much need lift to people who come from a difficult back ground educationally so its important to not paint all these programs with abroad brush .

    • James Michael Brodie says:

      I hear you. I taught in the old EOP program at Colorado. Same idea — help kids who may not have had the proper academic exposure in high school. We had a lot of success stories, we share information on teachers and courses and kept test logs to give others an idea of how to study for certain classes.

      And we had success with athletes as well, when they were integrated into EOP.

      Not looking to do the broad brush bit — but want to point to areas where diligence is needed, my friend. My experience with the football team was not unusual, but it should by no means say all are corrupt.

      But there is enough corruption to give us all pause…

  3. monicaangela says:

    Excellent article JMB,

    It brings joy to my heart when I see someone write on this subject or any subject that has to do with education in this country. I too am perplexed at how the system of education in this nation, like most everything else is corrupt to the point of using children and young adults for profit, that is what this ads up to IMHO. Profit for the colleges and universities money that more often than not does not go for improvement of the curriculum or better management of the university or student services, but into the pockets of those in leadership positions. It’s very sad, but true….however, there is hope. I have been talking with persons I know who are still in education and they feel that things are about to change. I read an article recently that lends a great deal of evidence to prove that colleges and universities can operate as purveyors of education while making sure students who attend those colleges have an opportunity to play the sport they love and also get an education that will enable them to be a better athlete and a better citizen when their athletic days are over.

    From the article: Notre Dame has won or shared the award given to major colleges which graduate the greatest proportion of their athletes four times since 1981; Duke has done the same three times in this period. Both schools require athletes to take a full academic load, so that they can graduate on time. At both institutions the admissions office, not the athletic department, has the final say as to which recruits will attend the institution, thus assuring that all student athletes are adequately prepared for course work at the school. Also, each university has higher requirements for their incoming athletes than the NCAA mandates. At Notre Dame for example the incoming freshman athletes must have taken 14 to 16 college preparatory units in high school, the NCAA requires 9. Neither institution redshirts their athletes, a practice which gives many competitors at other schools five years to complete their studies.” (For those who don’t know what redshirting means I will give you a definition: In United States college athletics, redshirt is a delay or suspension of an athlete’s participation in order to lengthen their period of eligibility). Okay, back to the article… “The lack of redshirting at Duke and Notre Dame forces athletes to graduate in the four years during which they are eligible to play their sport or pay for any additional schooling that they require. Finally, neither school has athletic dorms or physical education majors; this forces athletes and non-athletes to meet in more social and academic settings, making athletes more a part of everyday campus life. These schools illustrate that winning at sports and educating the sportsmen are not mutually exclusive.

    In addition to adopting many of the tenants of Notre Dame and Duke’s programs, many experts feel that eliminating freshman eligibility, a policy instituted in 1972, is another step that needs to be taken. These experts feel that this policy has benefited only the schools. Under the current system, schools pay a player’s bills for four years and get four years of playing time from them. Before freshman eligibility, schools paid for four years and got only three years of participation in athletics. The experts say that by taking this step, the NCAA would allow athletes one year to adjust to life on campus and to get used to the more difficult course work required at a university, before taking on the added responsibility of participating in intercollegiate athletics. Detractors point out that freshman are eligible to participate in other extra-curricular activities, like the band, the chess club and intramurals, and therefore they should be allowed to play intercollegiate sports. Banning freshman eligibility, its supporters say, would discriminate against student athletes. The flaw in this reasoning is that while in very rare cases the other activities take as much time as the practices, games, and road trips required of athletes, they do not require the participant to miss large blocks of class time as athletics often do. Far from discriminating against the athletes, getting rid of freshman eligibility will allow them to be better students and, by letting them mature both physically and emotionally for a year, better athletes.”

    If you would like to read the article you can find it here: http://ashbrook.org/publications/respub-v1n1-petina/

    I feel more emphasis should be placed on education in this nation, and not just education for the sake of saying someone has a high school diploma or a college degree, but education that says a person has what a citizen of this nation should have, a better focus on life, liberty, and a much more informed manner in which to be able to pursue those two things along with the happiness they bring. A Bible verse I have always remembered is the one that begins with: My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. When you look at what our government, our society in general is doing to the people of this nation when it comes to education this is the first thing that should come to mind. We are being destroyed because we are not being taught how to seek out and understand the truth, this thanks to our government, corporations, and the corporate control of information dissemination in this nation.

    • James Michael Brodie says:

      I had the same thought, Monica. I was thinking of something an administrator said a few years back about having colleges create actual curricula around athletics and the professions connected — business, medicine, journalism, coaching, education, etc. Perhaps by offering more than simple “rec” majors, the schools can train these young people for life in the athletic profession rather than pimp them for a few years before tossing them out.

    • RSGmusic says:

      HI MA,
      Very appropriate post. One thing you brought up that article you read deals with freshman should not be able to play on the actual team. That was the way it used to be. Called red shirting now gives them a yr to sit out for many reason an injury is another reason. They could adopt a policy that just say after your freshman yr you have 4 yrs of eligibility. Injury to a player is a good reason after the freshman yr to red shirt so that should stay.

      That is my addition on your very good post.


      • monicaangela says:

        Hello RSGmusic!

        Redshirting is allowed at Duke and Notre Dame for injury and academic study, however the student is still required to graduate within the four year period. I believe students who wish to continue to play the four years of their scholarship are allowed to do so if they continue to take courses in a fifth year.

        Notre Dame has always been a little different when it comes to the common college football practice of redshirting — holding first-year students out of competition to give them experience and time to grow. As long as they don’t appear in games, they retain their full four years of eligibility. Most will eventually enroll in classes for a fifth year so they can play that deferred fourth year.

        Most college coaches publically acknowledge redshirting but not at Notre Dame. That’s because Notre Dame does not automatically give redshirted students permission to play. They can enroll for a fifth year, but to play they need permission from the Faculty Board on Athletics, which advises the president on educational issues related to athletics.. In other words, more emphasis is placed on what college and university should be about….education first.

        I agree with you, in some cases, redshirting is necessary if it is for the right reasons.

        • RSGmusic says:

          HI MA, Notre Dame has it correct. I wish all colleges and universities did that.

          IN some cases in the 2nd to 3rd yr and injury can make the athlete miss a whole yr. SO in that case it is ok. some others i can’t think of now

          Have a great Sunday Monica!!

  4. Nirek says:

    Brodie my friend, we should have collaborated on this issue. Apparently we were thinking along the same lines. I agree that cheating for these young people is not doing them any good.

    My post was just my thoughts while yours had a lot more in depth information.
    Thanks for the great information.

    • James Michael Brodie says:

      You inspired me, Nirek. Much love to you for raising this topic.

      This topic is so near and dear to me. Education has always been important in my family, and I come from a long line of educators. I even married an educator.

      I agree completely with what you wrote. We need to do better by our kids, and our education system should not be for sale to the highest bidder.

      • Nirek says:

        Brodie, you are very kind to say that. Thanks. I was thinking just about the athletes until you said others are getting a free degree, too.

        My education is High School and the College of Hard Knocks.
        I have worked in the education field though. First as a telephone lineman for thirty years I got two years of teaching safety classes and safe driving of the derrick and bucket trucks. Pole top rescue, first aid, working safely in manholes, and several other classes. Then I retired and went to work at a local high school as a substitute teacher. After a few classes the Vice Principle asked me to work as her assistant. I went through four years as the discipline guy. I loved it! The next two years I subbed there and another HS.

        Just last night my son and I were at a restaurant and one of the young men I dealt with came up to me and said hi. He is doing well and thanked me for the work I did with him. His Dad was also there and thanked me. Makes me feel like I made a difference.

        Peace, my friend.

  5. RSGmusic says:

    HI James, a shocking article to some. Yes this goes on for a lot of athletes and i am aware of that. The others do shock me.

    Thanks for a great message that needed it appear!

    The Ghost!

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