When it comes to academics, it is hard to argue that the Atlantic Coast Conference is second to only the B1G in academic prestige. On the football field, the ACC teams have had their fair share of NCAA trouble lately, with issues at Miami and North Carolina garnering the most attention. An academic fraud situation at North Carolina is even more troubling. Or is it?
The details of the North Carolina academic issue and its status was recently summarized by ESPN as follows:
But as an offshoot of the NCAA investigation, a UNC internal probe found that 54 AFAM [African-American Studies] classes were either “aberrant” or “irregularly” taught from summer 2007 to summer 2011. That included unauthorized grade changes, forged faculty signatures on grade rolls and limited or no class time.
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A four-member UNC Board of Governors panel is reviewing UNC’s original investigation into the AFAM department. The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether any computer fraud, forgery or conspiracy to commit those crimes in the AFAM department took place. June’s faculty report called for an independent commission of outside experts in higher education to take a forward-looking review of athletics and academics at the university.
Meanwhile, the NCAA, fresh off imposing sanctions on the football team for non-academic reasons, is going to have an interest in the North Carolina self-study.
The Confidential does not want to defend North Carolina, but this issue seems very overblown. About half of the students in these easy classes were athletes. The idea of classes like “Rocks for Jocks” was invented long before ESPN and billion-dollar TV deals. Is one easy class REALLY the end of the world?
Frankly, even a non-athlete can obtain a college degree without ever truly challenging himself or herself. That is part of the beauty of college–you have a lot of freedom to determine what you want to learn. Some students become engineers or architects and devote massive effort into difficult undergraduate curricula. Other students (ahem, the Confidential, ahem) choose to take a broader spectrum of classes (i.e. not challenging themselves sufficiently). But there is always graduate school. And part of college is the learning that takes place outside the academic corridors. So taking one or more easy classes is actually quite normal.
The Confidential believes that the fraud issues are certainly worth looking into. Athletes’ grades should not be changed. Everyone has an obligation to be ethical. But if this is just a matter of steering athletes towards easier classes, it needs to just go away.