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More UNC Whistleblowers

The News & Observer is reporting that another UNC whitsleblower has stepped forward:

A former interim dean of UNC-Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences has sent a letter to Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean, challenging their claims that the university was not admitting athletes unable to read at a high-school level.

Madeline Levine, a highly honored professor emeritus, said that as a dean, she was made aware of instances in which the university has admitted athletes with substantial academic challenges, including one she suspected was “functionally illiterate” during her tenure.

Levine also accused the university of resisting efforts to get to the bottom of a long-running academic fraud scandal that is drawing sustained national attention since it made The New York Times’ front page on New Year’s Day. She said Dean took the wrong tack two weeks ago in publicly lambasting whistle-blower Mary Willingham, a former learning specialist in the athletes’ tutoring program. Willingham said her research found that more than half of 183 athletes specially tested for learning deficiencies over an eight-year period could not read at a high-school level.

“Mary Willingham was courageous in speaking out about her experience as a reading specialist and academic counselor for such students,” Levine wrote. “It is appalling that the highest officials at UNC - before it became clear that attacking a whistle-blower is not a smart PR move - mounted a concerted public attack on the accuracy of Ms. Willingham’s statistical analysis and, by implication, against her personally, while steadfastly refusing to engage with the core issue that concerns her: the exploitation of student-athletes and the concomitant abuse of the academic values by which a great university should live.”

Levine, 71, is the highest-profile UNC official to challenge the university over its handling of the scandal. She served as interim dean in the 2006-07 academic year, is a professor of Slavic languages and twice has headed that department. She won the university’s Thomas Jefferson Award in 2005, an honor given by the faculty to the professor whose “teaching, writing and scholarship” best reflects the ideals and objectives of the nation’s third president…

In an interview Wednesday, Levine said Dean’s presentation amounted to an attempt to misdirect the public away from the larger issue of the long-standing academic fraud, how it started and festered for so many years, and how it helped academically challenged athletes maintain their eligibility to play sports. She called for an independent investigation.

“The evidence has been there, and it’s been there prior to (Willingham) going public,” Levine said. “But it’s a tried and true diversionary measure to just angle in on something small and try to distract attention from something much larger behind it.” [Emphasis added]

How nice to see Carol hammered for her cynical, dishonest PR campaign. She richly deserves being called on this. Why didn’t people do so in Hanover — given that a great many people held the self-same opinion about her?

Addendum: The N&O further reports that yet another learning specialist brought the subject of ill-prepard athletes to the attention of Carol Folt this past summer — to no effect:

In a July 3 [Folt became UNC’s Chancellor on July 1 — Ed.] email welcoming Chancellor Carol Folt to campus, Bradley Bethel, a reading and writing specialist, told her she needed to look at the admissions process for athletes. WRAL first reported the email in October as part of a broader story about UNC employees and students asking Folt to look into the relationship between athletics and academics.

“Although we in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes are capable of supporting many student athletes who are not as academically prepared as most UNC students, there have been many student-athletes who were specially admitted whose academic preparedness is so low they cannot succeed here,” Bethel wrote. “At a rigorous university like UNC, there are some underprepared students who, no matter how much support they receive, have too many hurdles to overcome. To appropriately balance academics and athletics, we need to look more closely at the decisions, and the decision-making process, regarding specially admitted student-athletes.”

I wonder if Carol has wondered whether the College will give her back one of her old jobs.

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