A longtime dean at the University of North Carolina has written to Chancellor Carol Folt, expressing support for whistle-blower Mary Willingham and called some of UNC's responses to her claims "appalling."
Madeline Levine retired from UNC in 2010 after 36 years as a faculty member. She won the Thomas Jefferson Award as a Carolina professor, a top award for Carolina faculty.
"It was common knowledge that athletes in the revenue sports were steered to less intellectually demanding courses and were given special tutoring as needed. It was
not common knowledge, indeed it came as a shock, that they were steered to courses—hundreds of them—that did not exist or had no requirements other than submitting a ‘paper' on the basis of supposed self-instruction," Levine wrote Folt in a letter dated Friday, Jan. 24.
She wrote that "any fair reading of the evidence" showed that the problems could not be solely pointed to Julius Nyang'oro, who had served as chair of the African and Afro-American Studies program before being pushed into retirement.
Levine said "coaches and employees in the official athletes' support system knew whom to approach and how to cheat" and "made a mockery of the education UNC claimed to be providing its least-prepared students."
She said she had never met Willingham, but said Carolina has recruited athletes for its key revenue sports that could not succeed academically, and that UNC "has compounded the
harm by providing them with what can only be called a bogus educational experience."
She applauded Willingham for being "courageous" and "it is appalling that the highest officials at UNC have mounted a concerted public attack on the accuracy of Ms. Willingham's statistical analysis and, by implication, against her personally, while steadfastly refusing to engage with the core issue that concerns her: the
exploitation of student-athletes and the concomitant abuse of the academic values by which a great university should live."
UNC officials have raised questions about the results of Willingham's work, which made national headlines when she shared it with CNN. Provost James Dean discussed the matter with the UNC trustees and at a faculty council meeting.
Levine urged Folt to continue to continue to investigate the matter.
Folt, in response, said, "I can assure you that I and the new leadership team take the past athletic and academic issues very seriously. We also want to be clear in saying that we accept accountability for that past and are continuing to learn as a community from those painful lessons."