F or many people associated with this University, Wednesday’s release of the Wainstein report was almost cathartic. It is nice, in some ways, to have everything out on the table, to have the denizens of Pack Pride message boards no longer be the reigning authority on UNC’s misdeeds.
But the Wainstein report doesn’t solve our problems — it only details them. Two questions that we and the University remain tasked with answering are why this happened and what’s next? Over the long term, we must address the conditions that incentivized these violations and remove them from this University and its athletic department.
It is crucial that UNC be a national leader in this regard. Students and fans should be unequivocal in their call for increased transparency and reform, not only at UNC but throughout the structures that govern the national relationship between athletics and academics. Though the academic fraud detailed in the report seems to be a thing of the past, the pressures that led to it are not.
This problem did not begin with Deborah Crowder, and it has not ended with her departure. A popular topic of debate is whether this was an academic scandal or an athletic one. While non-athletes did benefit from paper classes, it seems beyond question that they were created with athletes in mind. UNC and hundreds of other schools around the country are still in the business of admitting and keeping eligible many student-athletes who are in no way prepared for the rigors of university-level work.
For better or for worse, student-athletes are not like most students, especially those competing in men’s basketball and football.
The University has tacitly acknowledged this with its provision of remedial classes and the institution of the Complete Carolina program. But it is merely trying to make the best of problems caused by an NCAA framework that insists the opposite. It is time for UNC to take decisive action and no longer be complicit in providing incentives for fraud.
This is not to say that the University’s susceptibility to institutional pressure should exonerate it from the consequences of its crimes. More local incentives, such as the desire to protect the University’s lofty reputation rather than acknowledge its struggling student-athletes, cannot be ignored.
It appears that the school has taken steps to provide more effective oversight to the troubled programs. Chancellor Carol Folt is clearly taking this report and its implications extremely seriously.
It is our hope that her seriousness will translate into a willingness to take on larger structural issues, even if UNC must go at it alone. A problem of this scale cannot be solved with patchwork regulation. It requires a broader rethinking of the role UNC has played in upholding institutions that force universities to hold many student-athletes to an impossible standard — at the student-athletes’ expense.
Now is the time for this debate. In the days to come, the narrative of what has occurred will crystallize further. Once the dust settles, the specifics of this case will give way to questions concerning the viability of the current student-athlete model.
To be sure, large numbers of student-athletes are perfectly capable of academic success. But the current system ensures that those abilities take a back seat to their athletic performance both in recruitment and upon arrival at UNC.
The University should look into reforms de-emphasizing the pretense that student-athletes admitted on the basis of their athletic abilities must perform in the classroom at the same pace as students admitted for their academic achievements.
It would be ridiculous to ask those students admitted for their academics to box out Jabari Parker, and it would take a similar amount of fraud to convince anyone that they could.