University student-athletes: an oxymoron

UNC Chapel Hill provost James W. Dean Jr. remarked, “I think it is very sad,” commenting on the academic credentials of university athletes—many have elementary school, or less, reading and writing skills. But that isn’t what has him downhearted, according to an Associated Press report by Aaron Beard.

No, he’s unhappy that findings by a university researcher support scandalous revelations about the phony “academic” program into which UNC funnels athletes posing as students. Mr. Dean called it a “flawed analysis.” And, by golly, university officials put a stop to this unholy research. It’s “unfair to use the data to say students can’t read,” says Dean. Well, we know that “fairness” trumps academics at the modern Academy of Sports.

Mary Willingham, a “learning specialist” who tutored UNC ball players for seven years, says she can prove that at least one basketball player was illiterate, according to a recent editorial in the Raleigh News & Observer.(link) Coach Roy Williams is “really bothered by the whole thing”—as he should be; along with all who believe that our university system has lost its way. But he says academics are not his “role.” Of course not; his job is to find ball players that can bring in money and add fake prestige to Big U.

And poor Miss Mary has been hung out to defend her credibility. She believes that her research is “100 percent correct.” She worked with an “overwhelming majority” of the people in her data set on their reading and writing skills from 2004 to 2010. Now Big U officials won’t even let her talk about it. Meanwhile, the provost can publicly try to discredit her work. But it’s all about “fairness”—some might call it cover up. Ms. Willingham was warned not to identify any subjects of her data. One faculty member came to her defense.

History Professor Jay Smith (no relation) told faculty council members: “She’s spent 40- and 50-hour weeks for seven years teaching athletes how to read and write.” That fact raises the question: why are any people who can’t read and write admitted to the “Flagship University” of UNC at Chapel Hill?

I think it’s time that our public universities end the charade. Most college football and basketball players are not legitimate students. They should be recruited to play for a college in some kind of paid contractual relationship without the pretense of being students. The current system is an insult to serious students who attend the university believing it is a place to get formally educated.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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