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Faculty executives consider effects of recent news on athletes

For many, recent news addressing UNC athletics and academics have been reduced to words printed on a page. But for UNC student-athletes, the emotional effects have been potent — something that was noted at Tuesday’s Faculty Athletics Committee meeting.

“We have many, many students who are feeling really hurt,” said Chancellor Carol Folt. “Every student-athlete here feels really targeted. We have that to deal with that.”

Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said witnessing students and coaches folding under scrutiny has been difficult.

“It’s disheartening to hear coaches having to be apologetic for athletes who have had to graduate late in sports,” Bubba Cunningham said. “On the positive side, we’re trying to push through as many things as we can.

“We have the Trailblazers which are honoring some of the pioneers in athletics here, the African-American people who have been outstanding in many ways.”

Exercise and sports science lecturer Deborah Stroman said part of the first two weeks of her entrepreneurship class are devoted to creativity exercises, one which led to the idea for the hashtag #HeelForward.

“I took that moment to ask how the class felt,” Stroman said. “I have a few student-athletes in the class, and they were really, really upset. And #HeelForward came forward.”

Sociology professor Andrew Perrin said continual recognition of the reform process is essential.

“It’s not just remaining positive, it’s paying attention to the fact, recognizing that there were major problems, and we need to keep up the process and not pay attention to these distractions,” Perrin said.

After former athletic tutor and reading specialist Mary Willingham publicly stated that UNC has admitted athletes that are not college-literate, many aspects of UNC have been questioned, including admissions.

Steve Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions, said the UNC admissions process is designed to be transparent.

“The students who are recruited here to play athletics are among the most scrutinized of students in our applicant pool,” Farmer said. “Those who don’t meet the threshold established by the faculty committee are even more heavily scrutinized.”

Farmer said the UNC admissions process takes into account differences in background and capacity.

“Not everyone starts at the same place,” he said. “One core value of our office is to evaluate everyone fairly. There is no one scale that is appropriate for every child. To pretend as though that’s the case is to practice bad faith.”

Farmer said the conversation on transfer students is interesting, as they contribute to the life and success of the University.

“Graduation rate for transfer student athletes is probably more than regular athletes,” Farmer said. “Ninety-six percent of transfer students we’ve enrolled have either graduated or left here eligible to return. Many have left here with GPAs greater than a 2.0 or higher.”

He said special-talent students are not an academic risk and could compete at any university.

“This whole special talent was designed to foster transparency, not to hang a label on students or suggest they don’t belong here.”

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