Editorial: Regaining measure of integrity

Mar. 31, 2014 @ 11:27 PM

Since the first famous tweet, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has failed to keep its eye on the ball. It did so again last week at a trustees meeting.

When Carol Folt took over as chancellor, replacing the embattled Holden Thorp, she assured university ownership of the scandals that first rocked the athletics department then spread into academics. We praised her for a long-needed move (“UNC focus remains questionable,” Jan. 24).

Last Thursday’s show for the trustees didn’t help. Timed against negative reports about the university earlier in the week on HBO and ESPN, six students gave trustees insight to the daily regimen of student-athletes.

Marcus Paige, Ryan Switzer, Lori Spingola, Tim Scott, Kemmi Pettway and Michelle Ikoma are sterling examples of students who excel as athletes and athletes who excel as students. Carolina produces them by the hundreds. They’re nowhere close to the problem.

Had the university trotted out a sampling of university department chairmen, academic advisors or some of its tutors, we could have been given some insight to the heart of the university’s pain. The worst charges, arguably, against the university’s academic integrity is a department chairman creating classes that required little to no work, advisors steering athletes toward those classes and corresponding majors, and tutors working with undergraduates who have no business being admitted on campus in the first place.

Last June we found out UNC had spent more than half a million dollars on outside public relations consulting linked to the academic scandal. By November, UNC had created a $300,000-a-year communications vice chancellor position.

For more than 200 years, UNC rightfully earned its integrity. Suddenly trying to buy it was foolish.

It was at the funeral of William Friday, among the school’s most revered and esteemed members, that Mary Willingham finally decided she had held back information long enough.

Willingham is a whistleblower. So are the athletes who spoke out about their university and its hollow degrees. And yet, they’ve been attacked from various angles within the university. Friday wouldn’t be pleased.

Rather than taking swings with poor pitches, UNC should square up to its problem, squash the spin doctoring and start regaining the full integrity we’ve known and loved about the university of the people.