Reading Specialist at UNC said Athletes didn't Know What a Paragraph was, Never Read a Book | Bob's Blitz

Reading Specialist at UNC said Athletes didn't Know What a Paragraph was, Never Read a Book

Mary Willingham, a reading specialist at UNC-Chapel Hill who at one time worked with the university's athletes, said she complained to the powers that were that some of the players did not know what a paragraph was and had never read a book.

Dan Kane reports, "But many of those athletes stayed eligible to play sports, she said, because the academic support system provided improper help and tolerated plagiarism. When she raised questions or made an objection to what she saw as cheating, she said, she saw no one take her concerns seriously."

Among her assertions:

• The no-show classes that had been offered by the chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies date back at least to the time Willingham began working for the support program in 2003. Commonly known within the program as “paper classes,” they were billed as lecture classes, but the classes never met.

Willingham learned of them when she was asked to work with a female athlete on a paper. Willingham said the paper was a “cut-and-paste” job, but when she raised questions about it, staff members told her not to worry. The student later received a grade of B or better.

• Members of the men’s basketball team took no-show classes until the fall semester of 2009, when the team was assigned a new academic counselor. The new counselor was appalled to learn of the classes, and wanted no part of them. University records show the enrollments stopped that semester for basketball players, while they continued for football players.

• Numerous football and basketball players came to the university with academic histories that showed them incapable of doing college-level work, especially at one of the nation’s top public universities. Diagnostic tests administered by the university confirmed their lack of preparedness and also identified learning disabilities that would need extensive remediation to put them on a successful academic path.

Some athletes told Willingham they had never read a book or written a paragraph, but they were placed in no-show classes that required a 20-page paper and came away with grades of B or better.

• Roughly five years ago, Bobbi Owen, the senior associate dean who had oversight of the academic support program, sought to rein in the number of independent studies offered by the African studies department, which by then averaged nearly 200 a year. Independent studies required no class time and often not much more than a term paper; they were popular with football and basketball players.

University records show that the number of independent study enrollments plummeted in the past five years compared with the previous five. Those courses have also been cited for a lack of academic integrity.

Your NCAA...hard at work.

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