I sent the following letter to the editor of my alma mater’s alumni magazine, Carolina Alumni Review:
Does anyone else see the irony of page three of the January/February 2014 Carolina Alumni Review? On one side of the page is “Nyang’oro Indicted in Probe of Academic Fraud” and on the other is “UNC, Architects Looking at Future of Smith Center.” The first piece is about the continuing athletic/academic scandal rocking UNC, while the second is about Carolina’s athletic department engaging an architecture firm to look at renovating or replacing the Dean E. Smith Center.
While I certainly appreciate that the alumni magazine has put the athletic/academic scandal up front, the article, like so much other information coming from the administration, indicates that this scandal is behind us, ending with a statement from the University that says in part, “The University strongly believes that everything possible has been done to prevent these irregularities from happening again.” Meanwhile, UNC General Alumni Association e-mails tell the real story: “National Media, Willingham Keep Scandal in the News,” “Prominent Former Professor Shares Scandal Concerns,” and “UNC Rebuts Willingham’s Data, Revokes Research Clearance.” And, it should be noted that Willingham’s research clearance wasn’t revoked because of any irregularities in her data, it was revoked because “she had violated policies on the protection of individual student names” by seeing names, not by releasing them publicly. Meanwhile, that “prominent former professor,” Madeline Levine, “has written a letter to UNC’s chancellor and provost that backs up claims that some athletes enter Carolina unprepared for college and are given special treatment to help them stay eligible for athletics and shepherd them toward graduation.” Levine, a twice decorated professor who was on the faculty for 36 years, goes on to voice her support for Willingham and says that “University officials were ‘steadfastly refusing to engage with the core issues that concerns her: the exploitation of student-athletes and the concomitant abuse of academic values by which a great university should live.'” Obviously, this scandal is not behind us.
And that brings me to the irony of those two articles being placed together on the first page of the Carolina Alumni Review. This is no time to be exploring any expansion of the athletic department or its facilities. Indeed, just four pages later, readers are encouraged to go to the “Online Digest” to read “UNC faces new questions about the relationship between athletics and academics as a growing number of national news media weigh in.” Carolina’s first priority–I would venture to say its only priority right now–should be to restore our academic reputation before it is further soiled by the athletic department.
Unlike so-called “student-athletes,” I went to Carolina primarily for an education, and I got a good one that prepared me both professionally and personally for life in the “real world.” I have been a life-long Tarheel fan, but I now refuse to call myself a Tarheel; I am a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill alumni. I will not watch Carolina sports any longer, and I won’t wear any apparel that has the word “Tarheel” on it. (The last time I did, at my gym in New York City, I was made fun of by someone regarding our scandal.)
My university–our university–needs to get its priorities straight. Students’ careers depend on it.
Alan N. Yount