Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Regular readers of this space should know that the heart of this writer bleeds red and white.

As a proud member of the Wolfpack Nation, it should go without saying that I’m not a fan of the baby blue “over the hill.” The same goes for the darker shade of blue in Durham, and the black and gold further west on 1-40.

However, I’m a big supporter of higher education….those degrees in the arts and sciences open a lot of doors for graduates. This state can boast of many outstanding institutions of learning, to include “The Big Four” – NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke and Wake Forest.

In light of last week’s results of an eight-month independent investigation into academic fraud at UNC, my heart hurts for family, friends, colleagues and others who put in the time and effort – many while balancing a part-time job or two to help offset the cost of attending college – to obtain a quality education and a legitimate degree in their chosen field of study at that university. The parents, grandparents and other family members of those grads made great sacrifices to aid in the quest of their loved ones to earn a degree.

No matter your athletic preference, we, as native North Carolinians, should stand proud of the fact that UNC, which opened its doors in 1795, is the first public university in the country to admit students. That means they were in the business of educating students less than 20 years after the close of the American Revolution.

The founders of that outstanding university would be embarrassed at last week’s revelations. Current day students and supporters know that feeling as well.

The intention of this column is not built on a “holier than thou” foundation. UNC-Chapel Hill is not the first, nor the last, to have its hand caught in the academic cookie jar. Rather, it’s written to share one man’s opinion on the depth of “who knew what, and when” and why these sham classes at ‘Carolina were allowed to go unnoticed (or better yet, unreported) for the better part of 20 years.

I’ve read all the media accounts published last week in the aftermath of Kenneth Wainstein’s scathing report that revealed as many as 3,100 UNC students were enrolled in fake classes. Nearly half were athletes, leading Wainstein to conclude those young men and women were purposely guided to the African-American studies program in an effort to keep them eligible to play. There are some reports that dozens of athletes could only read at an elementary school level, and thanks to the sham classes they were able to maintain eligibility.

To date, several academic advisors, past and present, have been tied to leading athletes and other students to the sham classes. Some have been dismissed by UNC; others face disciplinary action. Another, Jan Boxill, the former women’s basketball academic adviser, and, believe it or not, was the director of UNC’s center for ethics, is reported to have suggested certain grades for members of the Lady Tar Heels and allegedly helped athletes write papers.

However, it appears the head coaches, past and present, of major sports are distancing themselves from the findings of Wainstein’s report. Current men’s basketball coach Roy Williams adamantly says he had no knowledge of the sham classes. Former football coaches Butch Davis and Mack Brown also denied knowing.

I see it from another standpoint…. hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Head coaches know every detail about a student-athlete because they were a big part of a young man’s or young woman’s life during the recruitment process as well as promoting themselves as “fathers” and “mothers” to these student-athletes. The way I see it, if they really, really didn’t have a clue to what was going on, then perhaps they should not be in charge of an athletic program.

And what about UNC’s top brass….did they know and choose to “see no evil” to keep the cash flowing in from athletic boosters?

The final question is what was gained through these “paper classes”? From an athletic standpoint, it appears to be all in an effort to ensure eligibility….keeping athletes on the court in a quest to add another conference or national banner to hang inside the Dean Dome or add millions to the athletic coffers through participation in a post-season football bowl game.

Is athletic success worth the price of losing academic integrity….that’s what my ‘Carolina friends and others are asking today.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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