The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

December 7, 2012

UNC’s fall down the rabbit hole

Thursday, December 6, 2012 — RALEIGH – It is easy to lose sight of the absurdity through all the churn and embarrassment that has been the scandal enveloping athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The latest is an allegation by a former employee of the school’s academic support program, the folks who helped advise and tutor athletes, that improper help and plagiarism were known and tolerated within the program.

Mary Willingham also told The News & Observer of Raleigh that bogus classes largely filled with athletes, which have become a focus of the newspaper’s investigations and other ongoing investigations, were commonly known as “paper classes.”

Willingham said no one took her concerns about cheating seriously.

In response to the story, Steve Kirschner, a longtime sports information director at the school, sent a letter to the newspaper saying that it had ignored the steps the university has taken to correct the problems and the ongoing review initiated by the university, which is being headed by former Gov. Jim Martin.

Kirschner’s statement amounts to one more answer from the university which asks outside observers to suspend belief in logic and enter into an Alice in Wonderland world where down is up and words mean whatever the user says they mean.

What he and outgoing Chancellor Holden Thorp, who has already announced that he will resign, want people to believe is that an external review is required to know exactly what occurred and who hatched this scheme.

UNC officials never wanted it to come to this anyway. They never wanted these bogus courses, essential to keeping athletes eligible, to been seen as a scheme.

Instead, the scandal was all about “rogues.”

We’ve long since passed the rogue stage.

Kirschner can use words like “integrity” while writing about the school’s academic support program. And Humpty Dumpty can recite to Alice a made-up word that “means just what I choose it to mean, nothing more nor less.”

And rational-thinking people can call this entire hide-and-seek enterprise exactly what it is: absurd.

By now, if not months ago, the higher-ups in the chancellor’s office and the athletics department surely knew the particulars and who was ultimately responsible for creating this scheme.

To believe that they need an accounting firm or a former governor to figure it out defies logic.

I suppose that internal politics, in some unapparent way, might dictate that an outside review is needed to lay blame. Or, maybe lawyers who are putting legal minutia ahead of the larger reputation of the university advised this course.

It doesn’t matter.

UNC-Chapel Hill is a public institution. Those who run the university must be accountable to the public.

What we’ve seen is two years of unaccountability.

Thorp could change that tomorrow, and bring this messy, embarrassing episode to a close, by not waiting for a needless review and laying out everything he knows in a public news conference.

Then, he and others could use the word integrity and have it mean what it actually means.

Scott Mooneyham is a syndicated columnist for Capitol Press Association and covers activities of the N.C. Legislature.


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