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“[A] virtually unheard-of legal accusation against a professor.” The University’s Front Porch Becomes the Nation’s Front Page.

You and I know that big-time university sports is the front porch of the university. We know this because if you Google the phrase you’ll encounter every mentally challenged apologist for the activity repeatedly mouthing it.

We also know that, like most flagrantly corrupt activities, big-time university sports is constantly hitting the front pages of the nation’s newspapers, as millions of shocked Americans attempt to grapple with this week’s astounding unprecedented revelation of academic fraud; misuse of tax money; gun play among the hotly recruited; massively overpaid coaches staggering drunk out of their Hummers and having it out on YouTube with the local constabulatory, blah blah blah.

I don’t mean blah blah blah this is boring; I mean blah blah blah it’s the first of the year and I’m not going to do the whole list.

Respectable big-time sports schools (a vanishing species) attract the attention of the nation’s respectable press, and Exhibit A this morning is the University of North Carolina, which has indeed managed to introduce something unprecedented to the list.

But this shouldn’t surprise us, because the bigger and more, as it were, automated, university sports gets, the more illegal innovations you’re going to see.

So now we have, for the first time, the chair of a major department at a major American university in court for…

What to call it? It’s actually not unprecedented as an activity… Goes on all the time in fact… It’s just that department chairs rarely get caught doing it, and if they do get caught, like Thomas Petee at Auburn and Leo Wilton at SUNY Binghamton, they don’t end up indicted by a grand jury for… Again, what to call it? Theft of courses?

Because think about it. Think about what all of these department chairs (and tons of others like them across the United States) are doing. They are conjuring totally pretend independent studies for hundreds of athletes. You need to understand that absolutely nothing happens here. I can feel you resisting this understanding. NADA. Get it?

The chair, who of course can do what he wants administratively in these matters (I mean, could do… before chairs of university departments became, thanks to Petee, Wilton, and Nyang’oro, not-yet-indicted-co-conspirators…), has his assistant fill out the paperwork or the online stuff, and then has the assistant submit A‘s around the end of the semester, and that is it.

Now all of these institutions – Auburn, Binghamton, Chapel Hill – know precisely what’s going on. They make every effort to appoint and reappoint these guys chair of their departments because the scam fucking works, man. Lots of moveable parts to be sure but the athletes shut up about it, and I mean the chair. He’s the chair! Are other people in the department going to complain? They stand to materially benefit or not from decisions the chair makes.

The NYT seems surprised that the UNC thing went on for decades.

… Mr. Nyang’oro was [reportedly an] inattentive administrator who was often out of the country, even when he was supposed to be teaching. [Campus observers say] that his continual reappointment as the department chairman, a job most professors hold for 10 years at most, reflected the university’s indifference to what was going on there.

Indifference? Full-hearted support, kiddies. Nyang’oro made a big ol’ base salary on top of the big extra money he got for having someone fill out independent study and end of semester grade forms.


Of course now things are much better at UNC. If you’re looking for an academic job, you can really look forward to working there!

[There are new] stringent controls over the curriculum and faculty in which, for instance, course syllabuses will be monitored, faculty teaching assignments regularly reviewed, and classes subject to spot checks to ensure they are actually meeting.

Yessiree, big-time sports are a boon to the university. They introduce exciting new regimes under which professors, actively distrusted by their universities as a source of fraud, indictments, and front-page New York Times coverage, are now subject to close surveillance.

As UD has said elsewhere, at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, a professor has only one chance to make a good first impression. Keep your nose clean, UNC guys! You never know when your minders are going to show up.

Margaret Soltan, January 1, 2014 10:08AM
Posted in: sport

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