Saturday, March 29, 2014

Today's Tribute To March Madness 2014: The Key To Sucess At UNC-Chapel Hill? The 146-Word Essay!!

Unlike Mary Willingham, the former writing tutor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this blogger witnessed academic dishonesty and turned his head and did nothing. 'Twas the end of the 1950s, and the blogger was a college freshman at a small state school in the Southwest. Early in the fall semester, the freshman football players were called to a meeting with a "tutor" (a grad student in the English department). At the end of the term, a teammate — also a freshman — bragged that he had aced the English final in his section of ENGL 101 (or whatever it was). This blogger asked, "How do you know that? The grades haven't been posted yet." The boastful teammate said that "Glen" (or whatever), the English tutor, had given him a copy of the final exam in that section a week prior to the exam. Further, the teammate went to his room in the athletic dorm and produced the copy of the exam. This blogger stewed on that overnight and the next day (a Friday) saw the A-student teammate get in his car to go home for the weekend. The A-student had left his door unlocked and this blogger went into the room and found the pilfered exam in a sock-drawer. At this point, the blogger started for the English department office with exam in hand. Somewhere along the way, the righteous blogger stopped in his tracks and turned around (and restored the pilfered exam where he had found it), End of story? Not quite: the A-student remained in school (and played football) for his remaining years and — and approximately 40 years after graduation, was named a distinguished alumnus by the school's alumni association. If this is (fair & balanced) proof that good does not triumph over evil, so be it.

[x Slate]
Here’s The Awful 146-Word “Essay” That Earned An A- For A UNC Jock
By Jordan Weissmann

Tag Cloud of the following piece of writing

created at

The University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill has already been embroiled in a scandal for allowing its athletes to enroll in fake courses for easy credit. Now, the whole controversy has a rather potent visual symbol to go along with it: a 146-word, ungrammatical essay on Rosa Parks that earned an A- for a real intro class.

Mary Willingham, who spent a decade tutoring and advising UNC’s jocks before turning into a whistleblower, unveiled the paper during an interview with ESPN. As the segment explains, academically troubled UNC athletes were encouraged to sign up for so-called “paper classes”—which were essentially no-work independent studies involving a single paper that allowed functionally illiterate football players to prop up their GPAs, thus satisfying the NCAA’s eligibility requirements. While viewers were not treated to any of the "work" produced in those courses, Willingham did show this paper she later clarified was written for an actual intro class [not a "paper class"], in which the athlete finished with an A-:

And here’s the text.

On the evening of December Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the white people section on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time blacks had to give up there seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Her and the bus driver began to talk and the conversation went like this. “Let me have those front seats” said the driver. She didn’t get up and told the driver that she was tired of giving her seat to white people. “I’m going to have you arrested,” said the driver. “You may do that,” Rosa Parks responded. Two white policemen came in and Rosa Parks asked them “why do you all push us around?” The police officer replied and said “I don’t know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.

It seems fitting that this image is making the rounds just one day after a National Labor Relations Board official ruled that football players at Northwestern University were not primarily students but rather employees of the school. That’s not to say Northwestern was running a similar scam (Disclosure: I’m an alum). But the point is that those who think that most big-time college athletes are at school first and foremost to be educated are fooling themselves. They're there to work and earn money and prestige for the school.

And really, what are the chances that other schools aren’t mimicking UNC? In 2010, before Willingham started feeding information to reporters, UNC’s football program, for instance, had a 75 percent graduation rate, lower than some far more competitive teams today. It’s possible that those schools simply try harder and find more scholarly candidates for their o-line. But I somehow doubt that. Ω

[Jordan Weissmann, formerly a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, is now Slate's senior business and economics correspondent (since February 2014). Weissman received a BSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.]

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