Has the worm turned, to apply gambling slang for luck changing from bad to good?
In less than two days, Duke University reversed its decision to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer once a week from the venerable (and Methodist) Duke Chapel bell tower. Ten miles away, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors terminated president Tom Ross, ordering him to vacate as soon as a replacement is found. In the Duke fiasco, Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, and agitation from women’s groups who object to all-male worship as practiced in Islam, are given credit for the volte face. In the UNC case, a new Board was impaneled, comprised of Republicans who acted swiftly and decisively to end Democrat rule. No matter the underlying reasons, it’s a new day in university politics.
Ross has presided over faulty decisions that bring to mind the sinking of the Titanic. Like the officers, crew and passengers of the so-called “unsinkable” luxury liner, UNC officials are oblivious, even in the face of a scandal that has torn a hole in its foundations. Everything they’ve done to save the sinking university is wrong-footed, ineffective and only adds to the inevitable disaster.
What began with disclosures from the NCAA – that football players were enrolled in fake courses – has twisted and turned to involve a department chair pleading guilty to profiting financially from the phantom classes. A chief fundraiser and former UNC football star was caught padding expense accounts – and carrying on an affair with the mother of a highly regarded basketball player who worked for him. And data prove academic fraud has been going on for 22 years.
The reaction by UNC included impaneling a committee appointed by UNC Trustees and president Ross of the system-wide Board of Governors. A former governor was selected as chairman, who put his name on a report that can best be described as a whitewash. Then, assuming one coat of paint was inadequate, the Board engaged a former US Justice Department attorney to produce another useless investigation, as if repetition would render different results. The attorney and his associates were paid $3.1 million to to issue a 131-page report paid for by monies socked away in a previously undisclosed university fund. The impact of the report was spectacularly underwhelming.
Adding to the panic on board as disaster loomed was the choice for a new chancellor after whiz kid Holden Thorp abandoned ship at the outset of the scandal. He was replaced by Carol Folt, a water quality scientist from Dartmouth, a liberal arts college with no major sports teams.
One example of a competent observer could see in the troubled waters was the growler (as Atlantic ship captains call small bergs) Mary Willingham, an advisor who arranged course study for athletes. She said publicly that the majority of football and basketball players she advised were not capable of work on the college level. So what did the officers aboard HMS UNC do? They attacked her results in the press. And they attacked her personally, a surefire way to get yourself sued – so she has. Willingham has co-authored a new book revealing more inadequacies at UNC. Carolina Gentlemen insulting a lady in public dramatizes how low you can go when you lose your moral compass.
The origin of the downward spiral at UNC can be traced to the coup by the radical scholars in the late 1970s who created dumbed-down courses for political purposes – to bring down the dead white male hierarchy and instill self-esteem for the “victimized.” The decline of classroom standards bled over into the administration, which learned it’s better to toe the politically correct party line than risk banishment at the hands of the new professorate. Affirmative action and sensitivity dominate hiring and management. In turn, mediocrity breeds mediocrity, the word that best fits the milieu at UNC.