It’s almost like everyone forgot the last three years even happened.
Forgot about UNC being the butt of every cheating joke, with its latest scandals endlessly passing by on the ESPN scroll and dragging the University’s reputation through the mud behind it.
At least it appears we’ve lost our short-term memory, ever since CNN published an article that revealed Mary Willingham’s claims about student-athlete literacy.
But the, ‘Here we go again’ needs to be handled better this time, for the sake of all students — past, present and future — at UNC.
We have a chancellor who vowed to move UNC past scandal with her acceptance of this job, who has said very few words since the article’s publication. Willingham says she has not heard from Carol Folt at all, which is deeply troubling considering this is Folt’s first big test as a leader.
We have an administration that has been quick to deny the possibility of these findings being true. And we have a respected, but stressed, head coach who has dispelled the idea of any one of UNC’s basketball players — often considered local celebrities — not being able to read.
Comment boards are full of fans who are dismissing these findings right away, I believe mostly because they probably fear what will happen if those numbers are accurate, and it might add another sport to the ongoing athletic-academic issues.
But we can’t be afraid to find the truth now, whether or not the findings are correct.
Not after all UNC’s been through, and all there is still left to do.
At the same time, there is more that can be done by Willingham to legitimize her concerns. The University received the actual data on Tuesday, according to Provost Jim Dean, for what Willingham claims is the fourth time she’s turned them over.
But The Daily Tar Heel has yet to receive the same data provided to CNN from Willingham, despite asking repeatedly since that outlet’s initial report. If it was good enough for CNN, why isn’t it for other news sources?
Here’s the point, UNC: Get your act together. There should be a common goal here.
If there is a lesson that can be learned from the past three years, it is: get to the truth, reveal it, correct it if necessary, and move on — as fast as humanly possible.
When I asked him for a comment, former chancellor Holden Thorp declined to speak about Willingham’s claim that he told her to bring forward her findings before he left. But because he more than anyone should know about the damage old problems can do later, Folt should learn from his experience.
Now it’s Folt’s time to prove her leadership. The honeymoon is over, and UNC needs its chancellor, but her public silence is disappointing. And Jim Dean, though he has been quite responsive as a provost, should not be the visible leader through this rough patch.
As one of just 11 chancellors in the University’s history, Folt’s job is bigger than managing the PR machine.
We should also wonder where the student leaders are in this whole situation. Who is advocating for the student-athletes and other students who don’t fall into that category?
There has not been much coming from student government since the CNN article was published, but maybe it’s time for students to get in on a conversation that concerns mostly them. Student leaders have been quick to stand for other things, shouldn’t academic integrity be one of them? They should demand that the administration and chancellor speak up on their plans to address this to alleviate stress on the student body.
Whether these specific findings are correct is not known.
But the fact that they are still getting so much attention should be a red flag that screams, ‘The culture and impression of athletics at UNC has a long way to go.’
If the next few weeks are not handled with precision and care, UNC has not learned very much throughout my time here.
Many seniors, including myself, never expected our degrees to be worth any less. The objective now should be to prevent another incoming class from an unpredictable four years of scandal and accusations like we had, which should be a priority for Folt in order to move away from the negative headlines and back to the good ones.
Every second a national network spends rehashing UNC’s old scandals takes away from this University’s integrity. But we need our leaders to assure us that they are committed to restoring it.
Chancellor Folt, the ball is in your court. And we don’t have the time for another turnover.
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