Tuesday, October 28, 2014

UNC scandal far reaching, but not unprecedented; school and students must "move on" from this


Apparently, highly regarded universities, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (“UNC”), where it is an honor for out-of-state students to get on, are not immune to academic integrity scandals related to athletic programs, this time having “athletes” take “paper classes”.   My first reaction would be to wonder how “real students” (for want of a better term) feel about being ambushed this way.  Forbes has a perspective which relates the problem that the question of paying athletes, link to story by Brian Goff here.  Strand has a film on atheltics and academic integrity, "Schooled: The Price of College Sports" reviewed on my movies blog Nov. 13, 2013.  But it’s worse than that: The Washington Post has a story by Nick Anderson Oct. 23, “UNC scandal not just about athletes; many who took ‘paper classes’ were not in sports”, link here.  Certain departments, like African-American studies, were affected from 1993-2011. 


CNN also weighs in on the 18-year scandal, here and there are reports that it is very unlikely that degrees will be revoked.

Other schools have come under suspicion in the past.  I recall a problem at the University of Maryland back in the 1960s.

When I started at William and Mary in the lost semester of 1961, the school had an honor system and an honor committee.  In fact, all state schools in Virginia had honor systems.  But when I wound up going to GWU and then the University of Kansas for graduate school, I found people mistrusted the idea.  When I was teaching algebra as a graduate assistant instructor in 1966, I caught one student cheating and gave him an F in the course.  This was in a time when course failures could mean getting drafted to fight in Vietnam.   People were surprised that cheating could mean course failure, but schools with honor systems would expel on a single honor offence.


That sort of idealism has been lost, as teachers and professors use “turnitin” to check papers for plagiarism.  In fact, my own postings and book materials have been plagiarized a few times.
Let’s hope that UNC can redeem itself now and its genuine students move on quickly. 

I used to wonder if there was a dichotomy.  Can one really be good at sports and be a great student at the same time?  That was part of my own "upward affiliation" complex.  Sometimes Clark Kent really exists.  These scandals show a lack of faith. 
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Old Well on UNC campus. 

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