Phi Beta Cons

The Undisciplined Discipline

It’s shaping up to be a rough month for black-studies programs; a new turn of the wheel at UNC-Chapel Hill adds credence to Naomi Schaefer Riley’s assertion that it’s time to reassess their value and intent. Academic fraud perpetrated by the head of Carolina’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies, Julius Nyang’oro, has gotten so bad that North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation may be called in to investigate. The department seems to have gone rogue, according to a Raleigh News & Observer article:

The findings of an internal UNC probe released this month found 54 classes within the department in which there was little or no indication of instruction. The review also found at least 10 cases of unauthorized grade changes involving students who did not complete their work.

The internal probe began as part of an investigation into abuses in the school’s football program. The spotlight fell on African and Afro-American Studies when it was discovered that a football player had not only received illegal help from a tutor on a paper for one of Dr. Nyang’oro’s classes, but had plagiarized most of the paper (and plagiarized so badly that it was almost impossible not to detect it, though Nyang’oro still managed to do so). Scholarship football and basketball players took courses in the department at an exceptionally high rate — not likely a coincidence.

It also may not be a coincidence that it was the African and Afro-American Studies department in which the corruption occurred; shoddy ethical standards go hand-in-hand with shoddy intellectual standards. Perhaps it’s time to consider dumping all college departments that exist primarily for political, not academic, reasons. Other ethnic studies, women’s studies, gender studies, and climate-change studies spring to mind.


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