While Duke students petulantly glared at their computer screens minutes before the opening of the first registration window, some students at the school down the road signed up for suspicious courses with little or no instruction by professors—and once again, the NCAA let them off the hook.
Records show that there were almost 700 enrollments for 54 suspicious courses offered by the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although athletes amount to a tiny fraction of the total undergraduate population at UNC, football and basketball players made up nearly 40 percent of the available seats in courses taught within the department. Forty-five of these classes listed the department’s chairman, Julius Nyang’oro, as the professor.
Is it just me, or does Mr. Nyang’oro have way too much time on his hands? He could either be suffering from insomnia and sleep deprivation or he could be fabricating the majority of the classes within his department. What’s more, many of the suspicious courses were taught during the summer—i.e., football season.
Though Carolina fell into a ditch following a NCAA investigation two years ago, they seem to be recovering from the resulting bowl-game ban, loss of scholarships and probation. Although the investigation deprived football coach, Butch Davis, of his profession and accelerated the retirement of former athletic director, Dick Baddour, it didn’t necessarily amount to what Florida State underwent back in 2007. Following a biased investigation, Florida State was required to vacate wins, a championship and several athletic team scholarships.
In my opinion, Carolina got off easy. An official report by UNC concluded, “There were no violations of current NCAA rules or student-athlete eligibility issues.”
Another report released by investigators three months ago provided baffling evidence of illicit grade manipulation and very little, if any, record of instruction by professors. Several professors who were interviewed for the report indicated that they had not approved grade changes and that their names seem to have been forged on school records. This same report cited the transcript of former athlete Marvin Austin, and indicated that he had taken an upper level African studies class, taught by Nyang’oro, instead of the required remedial writing course the summer before his freshman year. Oh yeah, and he got a B+.
I’m honestly considering transferring to Pratt and taking a 400-level biomedical engineering course as a freshman. Maybe I can get the same grade Marvin did.
Michael McAdoo, another football player at Chapel Hill, publicly released a research paper he had written for one of Nyang’oro’s classes five years ago. North Carolina State fans took to various forums and pasted links to websites and passages from books that McAdoo apparently plagiarized from.
If fans could uncover the plagiarism, why couldn’t the professors?
Just recently, UNC administrators took the Penn State approach by blaming the only two people within the department who appear to have been responsible: Nyang’oro and department administrator Deborah Crowder. Though Crowder retired in the fall of 2009, Nyang’oro recently stepped down as department chair and will be retiring on July 1.
But what about the administration?
Even though the blame shouldn’t be put solely on the academic department, I can comprehend the reason why the aforementioned situation took place. The Academic Support Program for Student Athletes (ASPSA) at Chapel Hill isn’t necessarily banking on support from the College of Arts and Sciences. What I found rather interesting is that the ASPSA’s funding comes straight from the athletic department. Moreover, the director of the program, Robert Mercer, reports to a senior associate director of athletics at Chapel Hill.
Sounds fishy, doesn’t it?
Despite the fact that the administration has ignored the issue, it’s safe to assume that it’s not necessarily the first time Carolina has been involved in academic fraud. I’m sure we can all remember Jason Parker, a top recruit who initially failed to meet the minimum SAT score required for participation in the athletic program, but retook the exam, increasing his score by 45 percent. Despite all of this, coaches and administrators denied that the situation had anything to do with the institution.
Enough is enough.
The NCAA has obviously shown favoritism to certain schools, but seems to have held other institutions up to their hypothetical academic standards. The association foolishly focuses on the most insignificant violations, and Carolina was allowed to give degrees to students who, quite frankly, didn’t deserve them. It’s time for institutions to stand their ground and say, “No more.” No longer should the NCAA force certain schools to accept repercussions while others get off easy. No longer should the NCAA make millions of dollars off of the students they treat so unfairly. It’s time for us to take a stand against the hypocrisy and partiality that the NCAA displays on a regular basis.
It’s time for us to make a change.
Mousa Alshanteer is a Trinity freshman. His column runs every other Tuesday. You can follow Mousa on Twitter @mousaalshanteer