Thursday, November 13, 2014

UNC Just Following the Fraud Template

By Professor Doom

      I really don’t want to give the impression I’m picking on UNC here. The extensive, epic, long-running fraud at UNC is nothing special. I daresay there’s a template for the fraud going on higher education, the only reason I’m discussing UNC is because it’s out in the open, at least in this one place. My book covers in detail what happened to higher education so that this level of fraud is now fairly standard at many supposedly legitimate, state-run, institutions (I don’t reckon anyone had any illusions about the legitimacy of most for-profit  institutions).

     A recent article picks some of the juicier bits of fraud out of Wainstein’s UNC report, but I feel the need to point out, as juicy as they are, they may as well be jerky in terms of such things being new information to anyone that actually works in higher education. I’ll try keep my reminders of “accreditation neither cares about fraud, nor has any means to stop academic fraud” to a minimum.

     So let’s look at what passes as news to people that don’t work in higher education:

“Crowder provided the students with no actual instruction, but she managed the courses from beginning to end,” the report states.”

     What, we had an instructor for thousands of students that performed “no actual instruction”? This is very common in higher education. Due to quirks in hiring, it’s quite possible for someone unqualified, and unqualifiable, to teach in high schools to nevertheless teach at the college level. I’ve seen them, and, yeah, they don’t do any actual instruction. As long as they pass lots of students, admin doesn’t care. A teacher that actually does instruct students runs a risk of student complaints…many professors don’t take the risk, even the competent ones.

“Wainstein’s investigation was yet another in a long series of university inquiries, none of which has managed to bring a close to a scandal that has been repeatedly revived by new allegations…”

     Administration, without integrity, is in a wonderful, wonderful, position to squelch any investigations into administrative lapses of integrity. Wainstein’s report wasn’t even close to the first attempt to expose the epic, widespread fraud going on at UNC. You pretty much have to be an idiot to believe that UNC administration, which managed to squelch all the previous investigative attempts, was ignorant of what was going on. That’s the problem with cover-ups, you see: if you cover up the activity, you can’t honestly claim you didn’t know about the activity. I have to include the weasel word “honestly” in that because administration keeps doubling down on their claims of ignorance and incompetence (not that they’re offering to return any of their massive salaries. Of course).

     I spent about two years trying to expose what was going on at one school; the cover up was complete, the retaliations were firm, and administration’s claims of “we didn’t know we were doing anything wrong” got ever more shrill as I demonstrated their attempts at cover-up. But I digress.

“…some of the most damning new evidence in Wainstein’s report comes in the form of internal documents and emails that the university presumably had access to all along…The report largely absolves high-level administrators of having direct knowledge of the fraud, but it blames a decentralised management style for allowing the fraud to go on for 18 years…”

     So, at best, the report says that all the administrative staff at UNC are wildly incompetent to the point that nobody, nowhere, could connect the dots. Even after years of people telling administration that there was systematic fraud going on at UNC, and circling the dots at every opportunity, administration says they just had no means to tell.

     This, too, is fairly common in higher education today. In the past, administration was drawn from people at the institution, primarily faculty. These people had loyalty to the institution, loyalty to their colleagues, loyalty to the alumni that faculty created. Nowadays, administrators are drawn from outside the institution…they have no loyalty to the institution, so they can casually destroy the integrity and reputation of the institution, and certainly care nothing for the faculty or alumni. Instead, they diligently look for, and exploit, ways to further destroy the integrity and reputation of the school. In return for this, they gain the ability to get a promotion…at another institution down the road, where the plunder begins anew.

     I’m not saying administrators aren’t often wildly incompetent (I’ve certainly documented it enough times), but the current system of fraud is set up so that, despite the intense hierarchy of administration, they can say it’s “decentralized” enough that nobody need take responsibility for anything, and certainly nobody need be in a position to connect the dots. 

      It’s the Penn State excuse all over again: despite report after report of eyewitness testimony of the chamber of horrors activities going on at Penn State, no administrator opened his mouth. Instead, he kept his mouth closed, brushed up his resume, sold out his integrity, and moved on up to another institution.

"We put them in classes that met degree requirements in which
They didn’t go to class
They didn’t take notes, have to stay awake
They didn’t have to meet with professors
They didn’t have to pay attention or necessarily engage with the material.

     The above is a slide from a PowerPoint presentation, created by academic counselors, shown to UNC staffers to get them to grieve the loss of the fake classes, and to get students to sign up for the few that were left before it was too late. 

     I want to point out something with abundant clarity: NOBODY saw that and thought “gee, isn’t there some sort of academic fraud going on here?”   When this stuff is going up on PowerPoint and shown to an audience, it’s pretty clear there’s nobody around with any sense of academic integrity.

     Incidentally, the academic advisor who created the above slide has moved up and is now at a different campus. Of course. Did I mention that the “news” from this report isn’t news to anyone in higher education?

In one exchange, regarding a basketball player, Crowder asked Boxill if "a D will do."

"I’m only asking," Crowder wrote, "because 1. No sources, 2, it has absolutely nothing to do with the assignments for the class and 3. It seems to be a recycled paper."

"Yes," Boxill replied, "a D will be fine; that’s all she needs."

    What, you mean the professor is politely asking for permission to give a student a D for work that is wildly substandard? “Substandard” is actually a little generous: read the above description of the essay again, and realize the student could have easily have just turned in an Ann Landers column or something similar.

     This level of fraud at UNC is not news in higher education.

     Um, I’ve had an administrator specifically tell me to “help” a student despite clearly failing work, and, absolutely, I’ve felt the need to ask permission to fail students, even those that obviously were doing nothing in the course.

     UNC is not that special, really.

“In a review of 150 final papers written for AFAM classes, investigators found evidence that suggested plagiarism. In three out of five of the papers, a quarter or more of the text was found to be "unoriginal".”

      I had the opportunity to review a few dozen papers from a class by a certain professor, a professor with a reputation for “easy”, and receiving constant praise and promotion from admin. At least 50% of the student papers were OBVIOUSLY plagiarized, but all the students got A’s all the same.

     So, yeah, nothing new here, either. Sorry UNC, you’re not special.

“…Around 2005 or 2006, for example, Roberta (Bobbi) Owen, senior associate dean for undergraduate education, had lunch with Nyang’oro and complained about the "extremely high number" of independent studies he was personally offering. (He sometimes supervised more than 300 in an academic year.)…”

     Hey, did you catch the title there? Not just dean, not just associate dean, but SENIOR associate dean. Part of why tuition is so ridiculously high now, as I’ve shown in detail, is that there are now ridiculous numbers of administrators on campus, and these administrators make ridiculous salaries. Three levels of deanhood watching over…what, exactly? They obviously have nothing to do with education, or maintaining integrity, by their own admission, and the report agrees. So what do we need these deanlings for?

     Again, this is not news. I’ve made procedural mistakes, correctible with 5 minutes of effort, which nonetheless required 3 different administrators to let me know about the mistake. In writing. 

     Again, UNC is nothing special in having senior associate deans.

“…She never bothered to ask how Nyang’oro could possibly handle so many independent studies, the report says…”

     Did I mention the senior chief junior associate mid-level assistant sub-coordinator dean was female? That’s another weird quirk of higher education. I’ve nothing against females mind you, but it’s just statistically weird how that happens. I’m guessing the reason for it is administration doesn’t want to show gender bias in their hiring, so they make sure to bias their hiring to get lots of females in “leadership” positions…I wish my guess were facetious.

      So the guy is covering 300 papers a year, and there’s surprise that a professor is physically capable of that? But…classes with hundreds of students in them are fairly common in higher education now, how come nobody is asking how those classes could possibly have any educational value? It seems like someone should ask that question…

     And, again, professors with more students than they are physically capable of materially helping is common throughout higher education. UNC is not special here at all.

“…McMillan even signed grade sheets for courses he knew he had not taught, the report says. When pressed as to why, he had no good answer for investigators…”

     McMillan was not a tenure track professor, but a “lecturer.” The majority of professors in higher education now are not tenure track, have no job security, and are paid practically nothing. The only reason McMillan was allowed to keep his marginal job was he did what he was told. So, yeah, no wonder he had no good answer. He answers the investigator honestly, and he’s fired.

     And, again, this is not unique to UNC, most of higher education is taught by people in just as desperate a situation as McMillan.

     Ok, I guess it’s time find something else to write about, but before I finish for today, one more thing: UNC, like many other schools that practice this level of fraud, is fully accredited. 

     Accreditation means nothing, since schools self-report their legitimacy. Please, gentle reader, use UNC as an example for how well that self-reporting is working out.

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