December 22, 2012

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: More On North Carolina’s No-Show Classes.

Athletics-related motivations are not to blame for the breakdowns within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies, in which hundreds of students — half of whom were athletes — received credit for no-show classes and benefited from unauthorized grade changes.

That was what one might call the positive takeaway from the latest investigation into the scandal, this one comprising two new reviews by former North Carolina Gov. James Martin and the management consulting firm Baker Tilly (both tapped by UNC). In laying all the blame on the department’s former chair and his then-assistant, the reports also cleared faculty in the department of any wrongdoing, and found that the bogus classes and grades do not appear to have extended to other departments.

But the news was far from all good for the university: evidence of erroneous classes and grades extends all the way back to 1997 — a decade earlier than UNC had previously documented — and it indicates that the number of courses that were not managed or graded properly is quadruple what UNC had previously reported. . . .

The entire inquiry into African and Afro-American Studies was prompted after a former tutor allegedly helped a football player plagiarize a paper for the class. Scrutiny of the role of athletics in the scandal exploded this year, following reports of star athletes with suspect transcripts, and of those courses sometimes being packed with athletes. Of the 54 suspect classes identified in an earlier review into the department (a fraction of the 216 identified in the new report), nearly two-thirds of the enrolled students were athletes, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

But Martin and his team found no evidence that administrators, coaches or tutors knew what was happening in the department or directed athletes to those classes in particular. They emphasized Thursday that athletes did not receive any added benefits beyond what other students in the classes got.

Word gets around. But remember this when people criticize online schools and other alternatives . . . .