Kevin Carey lifts discussion of jock school University of North Carolina Chapel Hill to the higher, existential level that was always implicit in nihilistic events there.

Like all universities, particularly those with prestige, [UNC] depends on the idea that it actually exists…

Yes. But this is postmodern America, and the school might be a simulacrum. Lots of universities – all the online ones – are simulacra.

The writing that follows Carey’s words about the non-existence of UNC is so strong that I would like to quote it in its entirety.

UNC Chapel Hill is not a coherent undergraduate institution. It’s a holding company that provides shared marketing, finance, and physical plant services for a group of autonomous departments, which are in turn holding companies for autonomous scholars who teach as they please. This is the only possible explanation for the years-long, wholly undetected operation of the African and Afro-American Studies Department credit fraud scam. Or, rather, it’s the only possible explanation other than a huge, organization-wide conspiracy in which the university administration, department, and football team colluded to hand out fake grades to hundreds of athletes.

The university, of course, vehemently denies that anything resembling the latter scenario is true. Despite damning emails between [Julius] Nyang’oro and the athletic department, UNC is desperately selling the story that the entire credit fraud operation was the work of just two people–Nyang’oro and an assistant–and involved no athletic department wrongdoing of any kind. That’s because while academic misconduct gets you nothing more than a wrist-slap from your accreditor and [a] year of sad/absurd “monitoring” in which the university administration randomly checks classes to make sure they actually exist, athletic misconduct can cost the university things it actually cares about, like money, bowl appearances, and athletic scholarships.

In other words, the only way for UNC administrators to avoid blame for gross academic misconduct is to admit that academic conduct was never their concern.

Meanwhile, the football team must be saved because the intense tribal loyalty generated by big-time sports is one of the chief mechanisms employed by universities to create the illusion that they exist. I’ve lived in Chapel Hill and experienced the closest thing to full-scale Dionysian revelry one is likely to find in modern America, on Franklin Street after the men’s basketball team won it all. It was thrilling. It felt like we were one people, all of us, conquerors. But it was also an illusion (I wasn’t a student at the time), a false consciousness manufactured by the university to conceal its non-existence as an academic institution.

The cynicism and dishonesty inherent to that seep into the cracks of university life, occasionally as outright criminality but far more often as mediocrity and simple indifference. If Julius Nyang’oro had simply bothered to show up in a room on campus from time to time, say something–anything–to some “student” athletes, and hand out a bunch of A-minuses, he never would have been caught. In the modern non-university, he wouldn’t even have been doing something wrong.

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One Response to ““[A] major credit mill fraud operation [appears to have been] run with total impunity inside one of America’s premiere public research universities.””

  1. Stephen Karlson Says:

    I’m reminded of a quip some muckraking journalist of the Nineties (don’t have the full attribution to hand, sorry) made about the Interstate Commerce Commission. It was something like “the agrarians and the communists had their law, and the Vanderbilts had their railroads.”

    Something similar might be at work in the university. The activists and grievance-mongers had their area studies departments, and physics, economics, commerce, and football kept their disciplinary identity.

    Makes one wonder, though, about how effective the area studies folks really were at taking over the rest of the university …

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