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Carol’s Volte-face

In politics it would be called flipflopping, but to Carol it is just a change of strategy: she is now fully admitting to egregious recruiting and educational errors at UNC prior to her arrival in Carolina, and her Provost James Dean is no longer viciously attacking whistleblower Mary Willingham; he is, for lack of a better term, viciously apologizing, as Bloomberg reports:

“We made mistakes. Horrible things happened that I’m ashamed of,” he said over coffee in our newsroom, sparsely populated on a weekend. “Student-athletes and other students, too, were hurt” as a result of hundreds of phony classes offered beginning sometime in the 1990s. “The integrity of our university was badly damaged.”…

Dean, whose recent actions and public comments I’ve criticized as tending to obfuscate more than clarify, left little doubt in my mind that at least the message from Chapel Hill changed last week. Whether the rhetorical shift signals a deeper adjustment of actions and attitudes remains to be seen. Dean amplified comments made Thursday by Folt to the university’s board of trustees acknowledging “a failure in academic oversight for years” that was “wrong and…undermined our integrity and our reputation.” She added: “We actually do feel accountable and…we’re going to learn from that painful history.”

CNN quoted Folt on her new stance, admitting for the first time that the varied problems were systemic rather than the fault of the disgraced head of the African and Afro-American Studies Department (now “rebranded” according to Provost Dean as the African, African-American, and Diaspora Studies):

The University of North Carolina failed some of its students “for years” by allowing them to take classes that did not match its own academic standards, Chancellor Carol Folt has admitted.

The concession — the strongest since UNC-Chapel Hill was caught up in a fake-class scandal two years ago — comes just weeks after a CNN investigation found continuing problems at UNC and other public universities where some student-athletes could read only at an elementary school level.

Two years ago, it was exposed that UNC students, many of them athletes, were given grades for classes they did not attend and for which they did nothing beyond turning in a single paper. One professor has been indicted on fraud charges for being paid for a class he didn’t teach.

The university has always maintained it was an isolated case, but Folt is now acknowledging a broader problem.

“We also accept the fact that there was a failure in academic oversight for years that permitted this to continue,” Folt told UNC trustees last week.

“This, too, was wrong. And it has undermined our integrity and our reputation.”

Finally, The Daily Tar Heel quotes Provost Dean as stating that UNC is going to come out of these scandals with its reputation enhanced:

UNC’s reputation has taken its share of hits lately, but Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean remains optimistic about the future of student athletes’ academics.

In a meeting with the Faculty Executive Committee Monday, Dean filled in the faculty on the steps UNC is taking as it continues to address claims by former athletic learning specialist Mary Willingham that the University accepted dozens of student-athletes between 2004 and 2012 who read below a college level — a statistic UNC has disputed.

One of those steps, Dean said, would be releasing information on how UNC handles admitting student-athletes.

“It’s going to be as open as we can be,” Dean said. “Other schools are going to say, ‘Why didn’t we do this?’”

Why not, indeed?


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