90 Miles From Tyranny : At UNC, More than 50 classes offered by the African Studies department appear not to have actually existed..

Friday, January 17, 2014

At UNC, More than 50 classes offered by the African Studies department appear not to have actually existed..

Investigations of UNC showed that 50 classes offered by the African Studies department appear not to have existed.

At many public universities, football and basketball players are reading at the eighth grade level.

Research shows that many college students, not just athletes, don't learn much.

Everyone should go to college, we're frequently told. But what if we had a college, and nobody came? And still got credit anyway.

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill might not have gotten quite to that point, but it has come close: More than 50 classes offered by the African Studies department, and very popular with athletes, appear not to have actually existed. Some of these courses listed instructors who had not "supervised the course and graded the work," and others "were taught irregularly," a university review said.

UNC's chancellor and football coach lost their jobs. The African Studies department chair, Professor Julius Nyang'oro, is under indictment for fraud. That's bad enough. But it gets worse.

Now we're hearing that many UNC athletes can't really read or write. No one, of course, expects a person who excels at a sport to necessarily excel at academics, any more than we expect Nobel Prize winners to posses a great jump shot. But college "students" who are functionally illiterate strike at the very point of college, which is, supposedly, to educate.

Observing this phenomenon, Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, writes:

UNC Chapel Hill is not a coherent undergraduate institution. It's a holding company that provides shared marketing, finance and physical plant services for a group of autonomous departments, which are in turn holding companies for autonomous scholars who teach as they please. This is the only possible explanation for the years-long, wholly undetected operation of the African and Afro-American Studies Department credit fraud scam. Or, rather, it's the only possible explanation other than a huge, organization-wide conspiracy in which the university administration, department, and football team colluded to hand out fake grades to hundreds of athletes.
Either one of these possibilities is troubling, and not just for the University of North Carolina. When parents pay a lot -- or, increasingly, when students borrow a lot -- for a degree from a school like UNC, or, really, any institution of higher education, the presumption is that the degree means something. When hundreds of fake courses can be taught, to often functionally illiterate students, without anyone noticing, it suggests that there's not much going on in the way of quality control. UNC isn't even offering makeup classes for this fake coursework, meaning that the bogus credits will remain on students' transcripts.

Of course, as the old joke has it, education is the only product where most consumers are out to get as little as possible for their money. But what about the people, like employers, who rely on a college degree as an indicator that its holder has actually received a college education?

It's possible that this problem is limited to the University of North Carolina, and that some particularly toxic strain of corruption has somehow infested its lovely Chapel Hill campus. But it's more likely that UNC isn't as unusual as all that. Near-illiterate athletes are certainly not limited to UNC.

After the Chapel Hill scandals broke, CNN conducted an investigation of athletic programs across the nation, finding that at public universities across the country, many football and basketball players are reading at the eighth-grade level, making it doubtful that they're passing college classes on their own. The CNN report added: "The data obtained through open records requests also showed a staggering 
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