Monday, June 9, 2014

A Whistleblower Resigns

By Professor Doom


     And so at last I decide to discuss, at least a little, the immense fraud of college athletics programs, specifically the “big game” sports like football and basketball (I’m going to call it all “sportsball” after this).

     Before starting in, I must preface some. I’ve nothing against athletics, and I even accept that, to some extent, they have a place on campus. The ancient Greeks recognized that physical fitness was just as important as mental fitness, and classical sports like martial arts, fencing, wrestling, and such are a part of culture that should be preserved somewhere.

      On the other hand, there are campuses where much of the land is devoted to the football team, and the mission statement of no institution of higher education says anything about “making the coach the highest paid public employee in the state.


"The only choice left, is to eliminate big-time college sports entirely. There is no other means to rid ourselves of the corruption, and stop the degradation of our educational system."

--Howard Cosell, 1986. Anybody that’s cared to look knows college sportsball is corrupted beyond all hope.


      While the fraud and corruption of college athletics is extreme, it isn’t everywhere. One semester, I had the pleasure of having much of the school’s football team in my class. They were hard-working students—the kind of people that become great athletes tend to be hard workers. That said, I was at a school with no delusions of having a winning football team; the players knew their athletics was going to get them an education, with no hopes of making it to the NFL or the like.

      “Geology of our National Parks ”


--more commonly called “Rocks for Jocks”, this is one of several courses I know of that was basically fake, intended for athletes to take. Assignments were minimal, so that the course wouldn’t cut into the real reason the athlete was on campus: to play sportsball.


     I’ve known for years that top tier schools have bogus classes for their athletes to take. Did everyone know about these fake classes? I doubt it, but it’s absolutely certain administration knew, since they were the ones that allowed such courses to be offered—they have to know, to put them on the schedule, and made sure athletes were steered towards them.

     Because there is so much other fraud in higher education, dealing with the fraud of athletics was low on my agenda—most students don’t know how they’re being screwed by the system, but on the sportsball crazy campuses, the athletes know they’re only there as a springboard for a professional career. One has to pick battles, after all, and I chose to try to help innocent victims over not-so-innocent victims.

     Anyway, someone else decided to speak up about a common campus policy:


UNC Fake-Classes Whistleblower Resigns After Meeting With Chancellor

--the whistleblower made the mistake of doing so with her real name, a career-ender. Oopsie. Time and again I’ve seen faculty punished for having integrity. Not one time in well over 20 years have I seen a faculty rewarded for having integrity. I’ve seen many with no integrity glide through the system.

Let’s pick apart a few key paragraphs from the article:
Willingham confirmed her imminent departure after an hour-long meeting with Carol Folt, the university’s chancellor. UNC described the encounter as “productive,” but Willingham indicated it had been acrimonious.

There’s a big disconnect between admin and faculty on campus, although in this case it’s simply a matter of point of view. Admin got rid of the whistleblower, which indeed is “productive” when you’re running a scam. That said, I tend to side with the whistleblower’s description, having been on the business end of administrative hostility a time or two myself.

A former tutor to top Tar Heel athletes, Willingham helped reveal that the university had for years steered football and basketball players into fake classes that never met. She said that she and other academic advisers did so as a way of keeping the athletes eligible to play. The former chairman of UNC’s black-studies department is under criminal indictment in connection with the scandal.

(boldface added)

One thing to take from this: for YEARS administration promoted this corruption, but you can bet they won’t pay a price for it…somehow faculty will pay. Neat.

 I yet again point out: accreditation, which supposedly legitimizes an institution, has absolutely NO MEANS WHATSOEVER to know if courses are bogus. They never check, and the accreditation procedures are such that it’s not possible for an accrediting organization to check in a meaningful way. 

There could easily be entire college campuses with 100% bogus courses operating right now, completely accredited, and running fine…the only way the public will ever know what their tax dollars are buying with Pell Grant and student loan money is through whistleblowers. Accreditation is meaningless.

Anyway, maybe the criminal indictment of the chairman of one of the departments offering fake courses will lead to something, but I have my doubts. Making bogus courses cause for criminal action will open up a huge can of worms, since so many campuses offer so many bogus courses the jails would get flooded. Note how it will be faculty, not the administrators that hired and quite probably “influenced” the faculty to offer the fake courses, that take the fall for this.

North Carolina has acknowledged—and apologized for—the corruption but insists that it was “academic” in nature, rather than “athletic.” That distinction has apparently held sway with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which so far has declined to investigate the goings on in Chapel Hill. 

Whoa, let’s read between the lines here. The institution is saying that the bogus courses weren’t just for athletes, that the “real” students also were taking these bogus courses, and that makes it ok.

How demented do you have to be to think of that explanation? Imagine a criminal saying “I don’t just rob people with odd social security numbers, I rob people with even social security numbers, too”…would this get him off the hook?

UNC has questioned Willingham’s credibility, even as it has conceded the core of her revelations. Top university officials have repeatedly tried to change the focus of the controversy from the corruption of courses and the padding of transcripts to Willingham’s separate allegations that a substantial percentage of…players she worked with over the years could not read at anything close to a college level.

In addition to giving demented explanations for the acceptability of the corruption, administration is also engaging in character assassination. Again, I’ve been on the business end of that, too, so I certainly know their play book.

The claim that a “substantial percentage” can’t read at the college level is pretty timid, and it’s odd that admin would try to dispute that. I mean, it’s fact that most students coming on to college campus aren’t ready for college. Already established, published, undisputed, studies acknowledge that a substantial percentage of college graduates can demonstrate no improvement from their skills graduating from high school.

Connect the dots there: if they’re not college level coming in, and they don’t improve by the time they graduate from college, how can they possibly be college level at graduation? Administrative degrees are pretty feeble, but that’s a fairly tiny jump in logic to make…a mighty intellectual leap for an administrator, to be sure.

So, yes, I totally buy the whistleblower’s claim. If admin continues to dispute it, all she needs to do is produce one athlete of questionable academic skills, but a degree (or substantial college credit) from UNC. Just one such student demonstrates the fraud exists, after all. I bet they’ll back off before she calls their bluff.

“It was time to end this hostility,” Willingham said. “This chancellor has totally sold out.”

--Indeed, once you realize admin has completely sold out, it’s time to move on. The trouble is, it’s getting hard to find a place where admin haven’t completely sold out. Hope she finds one of the few places remaining where honest work helping people is appreciated. Higher education in general is fast becoming “not such a place.”

     Despite my agreeing with the whistleblower, UNC does have a valid point. Since their bogus classes are not just for athletes, this may not truly be an issue of fraud in college athletics.

     But how is it not then a fraud regarding the academics at UNC? All degrees from there should now be suspect, by administration’s own admission. Considering how many employers now administer their own competency tests to college graduates before hiring, college degrees are already de facto suspect.

     More on this next time.


  1. Athletics isn't the only source of such corruption.

    While I was teaching, it was often suggested to me to "ensure" that certain students passed. Often, that student was the offspring of some moneybags who owned a business which hired a number of our department's graduates in the past. Sometimes, that same moneybags donated money to the institution, often specifically to our department.

    Of course, it had benefits. Hiring our graduates made the placement statistics more favourable, thereby enhancing our department's reputation. The donations were, of course, welcome, improving the revenue cash flow. Of course, all this had to occur during the tenure of our department head who, naturally, would show these events as signs of his brilliant leadership. The only reward for that would be his promotion to, say, dean or even higher, which was his objective all along.

    Smoke and mirrors, anyone?

  2. Sounds like you got your wish Professor Doom, indeed one such athlete did come out and admit fraud and that they all knew it was going on. Sure you'll be interested in the resultant denials from the players involved. That player's name was Rashad McCants and he played on the 2005 National Championship basketball team.

  3. Yeah, I saw that...reckon I'll have to do a follow-up on that, because it sure it isn't hitting the news hard (though I concede people dying in droves in the Middle East is a bit worse than fraud everyone in the industry knows about).