UNC Avoids Athletic Sanctions By Arguing their African-American Studies Dept. Had Staggeringly Low Academic Standards

Well, it appears the common Conservative critique that many university race and gender programs have really low standards has a new supporter:  The University of North Carolina.  UNC successfully argued that it was not giving its athletes special treatment in the African-American studies department -- they had low standards for all students in that department.

A years-long probe into widespread academic fraud in North Carolina’s athletic program, including its storied basketball powerhouse, reached an unexpected end on Friday when the NCAA announced it would not issue major sanctions against the school.

The prolonged investigation focused on a major at the university, African and Afro-American Studies, where about 1,500 athletes over 18 years took advantage to make good grades with little to no work involved. The university’s defense did not focus on the legitimacy of the courses—the NCAA said “generally, the facts of this case are not in dispute.”

UNC instead argued that any problem was university wide, not limited to the athletic department, because the courses were available to all students. On Friday, the NCAA accepted the university’s explanation. .

“A Division I Committee on Infractions hearing panel could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated NCAA academic rules when it made available deficient Department of African and Afro-American Studies ‘paper courses’ to the general student body, including student-athletes,” the NCAA said Friday.

Greg Sankey, the head of the Southeastern Conference who was the chief hearing officer on the panel, said athletes “likely benefited from the so-called ‘paper courses’” but that “the information available in the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes.”

Just so we are clear exactly what we are talking about, UNC freely admits, in fact desperately argues, that it was offering courses like this:

UNC’s surprising defense focused on its own systemic shortcomings. It said that the problems were so fundamental at the school, it wasn’t actually an NCAA issue, and therefore wasn’t for the NCAA to govern. One estimate said athletes made up about half of the roughly 3,100 students who participated in the classes.

These classes were generally portrayed and shown to be fake for the most part. The NCAA, in its decision, said the classes did not require attendance. The students rarely, “if at all” interacted with a faculty member. The classes typically required one paper where the person who graded it admitted she did not read them in the entirety. These classes, the NCAA said, had “liberal grading.”

For reference, the entire UNC system (not just this location) consumes about 12.5% of the entire North Carolina state budget.

Update:  I was thinking over the weekend about whether this really horrible level of education for the money could be considered racist, since a substantially disproportionate number of the students in this department are black.  If one argues that the value of college is in the education itself, then it is preposterously racist, particularly since it hurts minorities at other colleges by reinforcing the general stereotype of low academic standards in race studies programs.  If one argues that the value of college is only in the degree itself - the piece of paper - I suppose one could consider this affirmative action.


  1. mogden:

    They pretend to grade us, and we pretend to work.

  2. jimc5499:

    So how much per credit hour do those courses cost?

  3. SamWah:

    What does this say about what UNC thinks its African-American "students" intelligence ranks? Pretty dang low, clearly.

  4. Rondo:

    Are We All Unconscious Racists?

    No: there’s scant evidence to support the trendy implicit-bias theory.


  5. John O.:

    More than free that's for sure

  6. jdt:

    I didn't read this blog but I give it an A+.

  7. Joe:

    The academic standards of most social science is low by the very nature of the social science

  8. morganovich:

    i suspect this is extremely widespread. i took an afro am class as an undergrad because the topic (Caribbean history) interested me.

    it was an absolute joke. there was almost no reading, barely any coursework, and only one short midterm paper and a short final paper.

    i'll bet you could have passed it with 10 hours of work over a semester.

    i asked around and got the sense the whole department was like that.

    women's studies was similarly WAY off the curve of difficulty and rigor.

    they seemed to be backwaters where you could duck school and take only fluff courses.

  9. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    I'm just down the hall from an "Angry Studies" department. Well, it's not exactly a real department, it's some sort of "area of studies" thingy that doesn't have to follow the rules of a real department. To quote disgraced ex-VP Spiro Agnew, it's "as soft as a duck's behind." Admittedly I'm not at a top 25 school, but when I bother to look at the 'scholarship' coming in those areas that come from Top 25 schools I see the same stuff.
    Students are getting indoctrinated and screwed at the same time.

  10. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    Too much compared to their actual value. Which is probably negative.

  11. joe:

    On a related note - In the Early 1980's, I attended the univeristy of north texas which had a satelite campus in downtown Dallas which had graduate level classes for both education majors and for MBA's in business/accounting/finance. (primarily for students working full time) We shared a breakroom.

    One astonishing item of note was the rather large disparity in the intellectual level of discourse between the education majors vs the business major. Though I would suspect that the rigors of the soft social studies courses and students have been set extremely low

  12. Bruce Zeuli:

    I think the outcome of this investigation was certain before it began. There is just too much money in college sports. Can you imagine any finding that would fundamentally change the system?

  13. BobSykes:

    Money may well be a background issue, but the NCAA was set up to regulate athletics, not academics. It's intervention in the PSU scandal was really outside its purview, too, but it looks to be a one-time anomaly.

    The relevant accrediting agency did give UNC a one-year warning, and that is itself a scandal. The agency should have demanded a show-cause hearing aimed at de-accrediting UNC's academic programs.

  14. BobSykes:

    At almost all universities, tuition and fees are based on semesters (not credit hours), and the price is a flat rate independent of major. Laboratory-heavy majors, like chemistry, physics and engineering, usually have a laboratory fee.

    So, the actual cost if you want a credit hour basis would be four years of tuition and fees divided by the total number of semester hours, which is probably something like 120 over four years. At Harvard, that works out to something like $500 per cr. hr. And Harvard also has lots of gut courses. The Ivies probably invented them for their "legacy" students. UNC is cheaper for instate students, and the tuition and fees amount to about $300 per cr. hr. The athletes got that paid for them. The other benighted minorities likely had scholarships, too.

    Willy Sutton was in the wrong business.

  15. Aggie -:

    At least now it's obvious what the school is there for.

  16. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    Colleges of Education are notorious for having students who enter with the lowest average ACT/SAT scores and at the same time the students with the highest college GPAs. Go figure.
    And graduate degrees in Ed are basically a matter of paying tuition and writing a short paper or two of middling quality. A HS friend of mine showed me his EdD dissertation -- 18 pages and 6 citations. Really.

  17. Peabody:

    "Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS" - Cardale Jones, Ohio State Quarterback

    I respect his honesty. Though sadly he of course walked back his statement later.

  18. mlhouse:

    The NCAA and college athletics are the most corrupt institutions in the U.S. today.

  19. Dan Wendlick:

    Remember the self-proclaimed purpose of these departments of ethnic studies. It is not about the search for truth, it is not about the dissemination of knowledge. It is about effecting social change. So what is important is not acquiring the knowledge the class purports to teach, but signaling your commitment to making the social change by enrolling in the class in the first place.

  20. McG:

    The NCAA doesn't regulate academics, but it does require that member institutions be academic in nature. UNC, in arguing that NCAA doesn't have authority over the situation, risks admitting it doesn't qualify for NCAA membership.

  21. Bram:

    Yes - They will actually make you dumber. And there is the opprotunity cost versus spending the time in a useful class or at a job.

  22. Michael Stack:

    Did you see what he majored in? I agree though, I respect his honesty and agree that it's stupid they make the athletes participate in this charade.


  23. James Graham:

    Congratulations, lefties.

    You have turned our universities into ... Boob Factories (TM)

  24. Dan Wendlick:

    the problem with the accreditation process is that they can only go after the university as a whole They can't effectively decertify a single department. So they'd have to shut down the engineering school, the business school, etc. if they wanted to prevent the university from cranking out faulty degrees in ethnic and area studies. It would be an improvement if they credentialed each area of study independently, (you are allowed to grant degrees in physics but not chemistry, for instance) but I imagine this would be a bureaucratic and logistical nightmare.

    Ultimately, the greatest guarantors of rigor of a university are not the accreditation agencies, but the alumni. When they find that their degrees are deemed worthless by employers, it is they who can directly and indirectly, through withholding donations and exerting political pressure, force change on the universities.

  25. SamWah:

    I suspect that would be "too late", and they would be screwed. However, the class(es) action suits against the colleges would be a sight to behold!

  26. Gilligan:

    >the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and
    >maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes.

    Some of the UNC defense is legitimate. Independent study and correspondence courses are normal nowadays, and most graduate schools give thesis/dissertation credits. Put differently, many students at many institutions are getting degree credit without attending any regularly scheduled lectures.

    One other nuance here is that athletes (and a few others) have both a GPA requirement and a minimum credit requirement. Those two requirements can interact to create a crisis if that student need to drop a class. Whereas a 'normal' student just drops to part-time status, the athlete becomes ineligible. The typical way to soften this hit is to have a few courses that can be picked up mid term. To the extent UNC is unusual, it's that they might offer actual grades for these, and not just pass/fail.

  27. Ann_In_Illinois:

    But their degrees are getting more valuable, because universities are hiring more and more diversity officers (and I'm sure there's pressure for large corporations to have them, as well, especially in Silicon Valley). Besides, they're working towards making at least one such class required for every student, which means more teaching jobs....