Accrediting agency puts UNC Chapel Hill on one year probation

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) placed UNC-Chapel Hill on one year probation for the systemic 18 year fiasco in which about 3,100 students were given credit for paper classes. Ten of the 15 players on the 2005 championship men’s basketball team majored in the department that was providing those fake classes.

I’ve previously discussed this academic and athletic fraud here, here, and here.

The News & Observer has the best article of several I’ve read: Review agency hits UNC-Chapel Hill with probation.

SASC’s report cites seven areas of violation:

overall integrity; program content; control of intercollegiate athletics; academic support services; academic freedom; faculty role in governance; and compliance with provisions in federal financial aid law.

Lack of institutional integrity is a severe charge.

Where did that come from?

According to the article, when SACS visited the campus in 2012 looking at this scandal, the University was not cooperative and withheld a lot of information. Reading between the (very brief) lines on the issue, I think that is usually called a coverup.

The 220+ page report submitted to SACS in January apparently showed the proper level of seriousness.

In the accreditation system, probation is a severe punishment. Maximum term of probation is two years – the University has one year. The only punishment more serious would be loss of accreditation, which would in turn result in loss of all federal funding. Given how totally dependent higher education is on federal funding, that would be capital punishment.

The Wall Street Journal summarizes the story: UNC-Chapel Hill Put on Yearlong Probation by Accreditor.

The News & Observer offers an editorial: Probation is a sad verdict for UNC-CH.

Editorial points out that possible sanctions from NCAA may draw headlines, but there is something far more serious:

…when an accrediting agency finds that a university has failed to meet a standard of academic integrity, the university’s soul is at risk.

Editorial points out sanctions this severe rarely get applied to a major research university. Initially there were 18 standards that SASC was concerned about. UNC-CH has addressed several of those, leaving 7 standards violations cited in the probation decision.

Editorial closes with this commentary on the university’s current mindset:

The nation’s first public university and one of its best has been brought low by a blind devotion to sports. People within the university, either by intent, neglect or incompetence, traded the university’s honor for hollow victories.

I think that is a fairly severe, yet warranted, commentary on the status of the university’s soul.

(As an aside, I am having a blast watching and learning about the news biz. There are a huge number of stories about the probation published in the last 12 hours. In general, seems like they are essentially a rewrite of the News & Observer report. The several articles I’ve read all make the same points while adding little new information and only sometimes giving The News & Observer credit for breaking the story.)

Full disclosure:  As has been mentioned before, I graduated from the University of Maryland, which a long time ago was a major rival in the ACC. I am guessing that is still the case. Having to make such a guess shows my level of interest in college athletics.

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