Over the past two years, NC State blogs and media outlets have been covering UNC’s academic woes, but this entire time the scope of our athletic discussions have focused on the NCAA and their official proceedings against the Butch Davis football program. The problem is that this issue is much, much bigger than the football team or even the athletic department. This is a university wide, top-down academic nightmare. I would suggest that the NCAA has done their part and whether it was sufficient or not, it’s over. Law enforcement also got involved when district attorney Jim Woodall requested the SBI get involved. The next step, and what everyone in the UNC School System should be crying out for, is for the Dept of Ed’s accreditation agents to take a look into whether UNC’s accreditation should be put on notice or even completely withdrawn.
We have two prime use-cases to show how accreditation is used to address issues of accreditation and how they apply directly to UNC. In their own way, both examples shine a bright light on why Carolina deserves a nasty letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
USE-CASE #1: Barber-Scotia College, 2004
In 2004, the new president of a small HBCU, Dr. Gloria Bromell Tinubu, learned that they had lost their accreditation due to what the SACS deemed was “a failure to comply with SACS Principles and Philosophy of Accreditation (Integrity)”. There was no crime against humanity or massive athletic scandal that gripped the media for months needed. What Barber-Scotia was guilty of was “awarded degrees to nearly 30 students in the adult program who SACS determined hadn’t fulfilled the proper requirements”.
So that’s the line in the sand. What it takes for a college to lose it’s accreditation within the same organization that accredits UNC is to award a number of degrees to students who haven’t fulfilled proper requirements. So the question now becomes this: is Carolina knowingly and willingly awarding degrees and grades to athletes for the sake of NCAA eligibility synonymous with awarding degrees to students who “hadn’t fulfilled the proper requirements” for graduation? If so, and if the SACS is going to act with the same consistency it showed a small black college in Concord, then it seems only just that Carolina would be receiving similar warnings, investigations, and, if warranted, punishments regarding their own accreditation.
USE-CASE #2: Penn State, 2012
Just last week, news broke that Penn State had been put on warning by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the organization responsible for conferring university accreditation in the region, due to their recent Sandusky scandal. While their scandal involves a much more egregious moral offense, the rationale for the warning sounds suspiciously applicable to UNC knowingly and complacently having NFL agents as academic advisers and effectively giving away degrees that cost universities money to finance:
“This action has nothing to do with the quality of education our students receive,” Bowen said in a statement posted Monday to the school’s website. “Middle States is focusing on governance, integrity and financial issues related to information in the Freeh report and other items related to our current situation.”
The commission voted August 6 to place the school on warning status. Two days later, it notified Penn State officials that the school’s accreditation was “in jeopardy” based on information contained in former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s report on Penn State’s handling of the sex-abuse allegations against Sandusky and a National Collegiate Athletic Association action against the school. (link)
What we glean from Vice Provost Bowen and from the Freeh report is that their accreditation warning has more to do with their handling of the situation as it does with the crime itself. When an institution proves that it is incapable of handling the most obvious of offenses within it’s hallowed halls, whether that’s in the locker room or in the lecture hall, it shows that the institution is lacking in basic more fiber required to guide other minds to be educated professionals. What lesson is this teaching young alumni of the great flagship university? That as long as you make the right people look good, they’ll let you get away with murder? That may be a harsh truth in many aspects of life, but for Carolina’s administration to knowingly allow it is criminal and certainly deserving of putting their accreditation on notice.
“BAD PRESS” ISN’T A PUNISHMENT; DENIED FUNDING IS
At the end of the day, all things come down to money. ESPN flourishes and can dictate scheduling because they control the purse-strings. Political Super-PACs can control election season dialog because they have the means to influence others. If you want to truly call for UNC to reform their institution from the inside-out and purge the disingenuous elements from their administration, you are going to have to hit them where it hurts, and I don’t mean taking banners down in the “Dean Dome”. A university’s accreditation is directly tied to their funding. If you want UNC to take notice in a way they can’t ignore, start threatening their accreditation.
My hope is that all of the sports blogs, journalists, and pundits take a moment to step back and look at the full scope of what UNC is doing. It’s better for the entire UNC School System if the “flagship” is actually exemplifying traits that the system expects of all it’s member institutions. I have little, if any, faith that the UNC School System will investigate and punish UNC on it’s own volition, so what needs to happen is the SACS stepping in and bitch-slapping UNC into a more humble posture.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for a deeper look into UNC’s accreditation and exactly why it should be revoked, suspended, put on warning, or noted with an asterisk!)