by Jane S. Shaw
UNC’s fake-classes scandal was in the news this weekend, as the university received a notice of allegations from the NCAA on Friday. And, once again, the Raleigh News & Observer chose to minimize the academic nature of the scandal.
Columnist Luke DeCock once again disparaged former governor James Martin for stressing the academic issue when he wrote his report on it several years ago. DeCock quotes Martin, selectively, as saying: “this was not an athletic scandal”—when in fact what Governor Martin wrote was that it “was not an athletic scandal. It’s an academic scandal, which is worse.” Governor Martin, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry, elevated the scandal to its proper place when he called it academic—something that goes to the heart of the university—rather than a matter of getting paid for a jersey or spending too much time with recruiting agents.
DeCock also flouts the truth when he says, “The fact that a student-non-athlete or two found his or her way into a paper class now and then did not take away from the reason why this fraud ran so deep and lived so long.” As a commenter on the N & O story points out, 53 percent of the students in these classes were non-athletes.
Why the News & Observer keeps harping on this athletic/academic distinction, I don’t know. However, it benefits the university (in the short-run). For a school that prides itself on its academic reputation, calling this an athletic scandal takes some pressure off. It keeps people from asking how a UNC department could teach students a curriculum riddled with classes that never met and were never taught—for 18 years? Did this department get a pass? Or does the university neglect its most fundamental duty throughout all departments?
DeCock is making it easy for the university to ignore those questions.