UNC: Tarred and feathered by the New York Times

The New York Times, two years late to the party, joins Businessweek in claiming that UNC’s administration must have been complicit in the grade-fixing scandal that resulted in the ouster of Butch Davis and in NCAA sanctions for its football program.

It’s never been a secret that colleges have easy can’t-fail classes. I went to Penn. I wasn’t particularly good at math or science. I took two joke classes on astronomy. It wasn’t hard to find out which classes were easy classes and which professors were easy graders. I didn’t need to go to the administration to find out the easy classes. I asked around.

UNC Football ScandalThe classes I took in my major were not easy, and not, usually, with easy graders.

But if my major were making massive dunks on ACC competitors, especially a certain school in Durham, then I might be focused on the reason why I came to UNC, which is not to take tough classes that distract me from my real job.

The larger problem is whether professional sports ought to be housed at universities. But, until the New York Times is more insightful about collegiate athletics than South Park, there’s no point on relying on its news reporting.

For instance, what about The Times‘ claim that the UNC administration must’ve been in cahoots with Julius Nyang’oro, the chairman of the African American studies department who taught no-show classes, because only athletes enrolled in the classes. That fact is taken as evidence that more officials within the administration or athletic departments must have known about the fraud.

Maybe.

But maybe UNC, like many schools, has an early enrollment system for student athletes who can chooses classes before regular students are permitted to register. And maybe these classes reached their capacity after this early registration period, meaning that student athletes who knew about the easiest classes from fellow student athletes got to choose the best ones while locking out regular students.

To complete the circle: the larger question is should we be criminalizing what is basically an internal academic matter. UNC may not be the best organization to police its own affairs; the NCAA certainly is incapable of policing anyone’s affairs. But making a criminal case out of this is just absurd.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.