Two UNCs

by Daniel Schere

It has been two weeks since Kenneth Wainstein revealed the findings of his investigation into UNC’s now 4-year academic scandal. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it for at least a few minutes. When I wrote on this subject over the summer, I called out the university and named several people I thought were involved in creating a sham course system for nearly two decades. Since the release of the Wainstein report, journalists and academics across the nation have analyzed what this will mean for the future of UNC in language far more eloquent than I can provide. To me the biggest takeaway of the report and all the revelations that preceded it is that there are two UNCs.

There is the UNC that is more than two centuries old, producing the likes of greats such as Frank Porter Graham, Bill Friday and yes even Michael Jordan who returned to UNC in 1986 to complete his education. But there is also the UNC that sent 3,100 students through classes that never met and gave artificially high grades.

There is the UNC that has prided itself on being the “university of the people,” that admits a wide variety of students from around the globe across various racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. And then there is the UNC that sends coaches to the homes of high school standouts and ensures that strings are pulled for them regardless of their academic ability.

There is the UNC that prides itself on a student-run honor system that explains the severity of cheating and plagiarism, going so far as to devote an entire section of new student orientation to learning about it and requiring students to sign a pledge on every exam. And then there is the UNC that entirely disregards the honor code for a select number of students.

There is the UNC that was led by Bill Friday who warned that big money athletics would corrupt world-class academics. And there is the UNC that became a victim of the very phenomenon he described.

There is the UNC that puts its money toward scholarships, research grants and better campus infrastructure. And then there is the UNC that spends $990 per hour on an investigation that did not need to happen had the university’s officials given credence to whistleblower Mary Willingham’s conviction that some students are coming in well underprepared.

There is the UNC that is full of faculty members such as Willingham and Jay Smith who are making a good faith effort to reform the system. And there is the UNC that is full of faculty members such as Deborah Crowder and Jan Boxill who are part of it.

There is the UNC that is full of athletic programs with students who are students first and graduate at the top of their class, who “go pro in something other than sports.” And there is the UNC with football and basketball players that serve the purpose of winning games and bringing the university money before jumping ship for the NBA or NFL after 1-3 years.

There is the UNC that has had less well-known coaches that have won games and championships without sacrificing the university’s reputation or that of any student’s. And there is the UNC that hires coaches such as Roy Williams and Butch Davis who are willing to win at any cost.

There is the UNC that is headed by chancellors such as James Moeser, Holden Thorp and Carol Folt who didn’t ask to be thrown into this mess but could have stepped up more when the moment came. And then there is the UNC that was directly involved in creating this mess thanks to professors, tutors, coaches and likely others whom we don’t know.

There is the UNC with students from the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies who worked hard for their degrees, don’t deserve to be lumped in with the select few who took paper classes and do deserve to have fulfilling, meaningful careers. And then there is the UNC with students who took classes in the department that either didn’t graduate or earned devalued degrees.

There is the UNC that claims academic fraud is no longer an issue and reforms are in place to prevent it from ever happening again. And there is the UNC that will allow academic fraud to continue and do it’s best to prevent the public from ever finding out again.

There is the UNC that coined the term “Carolina Way” and lived by it for so long. And there is the UNC that made it so much of a mockery that Bill Friday is turning over in his grave. !