The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of our nation's finest universities, ranking 30th in the latest U.S. News and World Report list of top schools and eighth on Forbes' list of top public colleges. And the bit of drivel above apparently earned an A-minus, according to ESPN. (Update: Clarification below.)
Why? Simple. That paper was written by an athlete for a class specifically designed to keep them moving through the university.
"Athletes couldn't write a paper," Mary Willingham, a specialist in the school's learning-support system-turned-whistleblower, told ESPN. "They couldn't write a paragraph. They couldn't write a sentence yet." She said that some of the students were reading at a second- or third-grade level, which is considered illiterate for a college-age student. As Willingham notes, in the "AFAM" classes, players were notching As and Bs, but in actual classes such as Biology and Economics were receiving Ds and Fs.
The academic scandal at UNC has deep roots; hundreds of classes since the mid-1990s fell into a "no-show" category, classes made up primarily or completely of athletes who didn't even show up to class and yet earned an A. Such dry statistics generally receive a disbelieving shake of the head, but it's not until you actually see what kind of work these "students" were producing that you start to see the way a "student-athlete," and an athletic department, can game the system:
Whistleblower says UNC put athletes in classes that never met and required only one final paper. This one got an A-. pic.twitter.com/HShyr6ivGm
— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) March 26, 2014
That paper doesn't even make it six words before its first error (the actual date of Rosa Parks' bus incident was Dec. 1, 1955), and the rest of the paper would make a fourth-grade Language Arts teacher burn through two red pens.
One of the key arguments of the NCAA and its defenders, or those opposed to paying players, is that the players are "receiving a valuable education." Giving an A-minus to a paper like this shows how false that premise can be.
UPDATE: Willingham has since clarified that the paper itself did not receive the A-, but the student did for the entire class:
Clarification on RP paper that went viral.It was a final essay for an intro class.Final grade in class A-.Not a real education. #ncaareform
— Mary Willingham (@paperclassinc) March 28, 2014
Critics of Willingham have seized on this, plus the fact that Willingham has apparently entertained inquiries about her story from movie and tleevision producers, as evidence that her motives are mercenary and self-aggrandizing. However, it is worth noting that the paper noted above is actually plagiarized almost word-for-word from the very first page of Parks' own autobiography. The fact that the student in question did not receive a failing grade in the class, as stipulated under UNC's honor code, is another mark against the school, regardless of Willingham's motives.
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