I fully intended for my post last week to be my only one on the UNC academic scandal. However, the reactions by the sports media and some within higher education force me to address the issue once again. The national sports media rushed to call on the university and the NCAA to rip down the championship banners in the Dean Dome. Pat Forde’s article called on the university to bring down the banners while the Wainstein Report was still warm from the copier. The calls to punish UNC didn’t stay in the sports section. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the well-known trade publication, Macalester College President Brian Rosenberg argued for revoking the university’s accreditation. For Rosenberg, forget the death penalty for athletics. Let’s kill the entire university.
To the Banner-Chasers and the Accreditation-Revokers, I have a plea from all of us who are concerned about the academic fraud: “Sit down and shut up!”
This issue is too important for hyperbole from the sports media, higher education leaders, or holier-than-thou critics.
Too many issues in our nation today are hindered by excessive hyperbole, let’s rationally examine the issues involved, the culture that supported them, and address needed reforms.
The real problem is that we have few avenues to punish or sanction institutions when transgressions occur. Listen to the emptiness behind the Banner-chasers and Accreditation-revokers.
For the Banner-chasers, the only thing that will make the situation right is to revoke the championships won by players that were kept eligible, in part, based on the paper classes. Moreover, let’s revoke scholarships, impose bowl-bans, and otherwise weaken the current athletics program.
The problem is that most of the punishments hurt current student-athletes and fail to stimulate the reforms that are needed.
Much ink was spilled in the last few days encouraging the NCAA to make an example out of UNC to show the enforcement process isn’t broken (even though we all know that it is).
The core problem for the NCAA is how you punish athletic programs and teams for violations that occurred several years ago. Sure, you can take away wins in the record book and even bring down banners, but all of this feels hollow. The only recourse is to enact sanctions for current players which doesn’t seem right to hardly anyone. Absent a time machine, however, this is about our only option.
If the NCAA and athletic sanctions are limited, the ability to punish on the academic side is even less. There are only two options: do nothing or shut down the university.
President Rosenberg obviously wants the latter. It isn’t hyperbole to say that that the university would be forced to close if it lost accreditation. Immediately, all degrees would be useless for transferring to other institutions and for students seeking jobs (for employers that require a degree from an accredited university). All students would lose access to federal financial aid. Faculty would bolt and students would be forced to follow. I doubt the university could stay open 12 months without accreditation.
But to Rosenberg and other critics, that’s fine. Close the oldest public university in the nation. What good is it doing if you can’t trust the institution’s academic integrity.
I agree that the academic problems outlined in the Wainstein Report deserve sanction and call for needed reforms. However, it is lunacy to suggest completely shutting down the university.
And that’s the problem. The only recourse to seriously deal with academic violations is to revoke accreditation and close the university. There aren’t mechanisms to limit faculty hiring or impose limits on university recruiting similar to the NCAA.
Forget using a scalpel to sanction the university: the only option is a sledgehammer.
I believe there may be merit in considering sanctions against the university (heck, the poor public relations reaction since the beginning of the scandal alone deserves sanctions).
However, the false bravado of the Banner-chasers and the Accreditation-revokers only clouds the real issues.
I want to have a debate about how to reform UNC and all of higher education so this is never allowed to happen again.
Protecting the academic integrity of our universities is too important for foolishness.
To all Banner-chasers and Accreditation-revokers, stop the hyperbole. And if you aren’t going to do that, then sit down and shut up!
Let those of us who care about real issues get to work.