Mia Hamm and Michael Jordan are just two of the internationally renowned athletes who have graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose ranks of alumni include a multitude of other high profile athletes, politicians and entertainers.
As of 2014, the university’s acceptance rate hovers around 29%, and the university’s website boasts such achievements as establishing itself as America’s first public university, founded in 1789, and funding a $729 million research program in 2014 alone.
Today, UNC is best known not for its accolades but for an 18-year cheating scandal spanning from 1993 to 2011. The case includes fabricated courses that supplied high grades to students in order to inflate their GPAs.
Out of roughly 3100 students who benefited from the so-called “paper classes,” courses that were put on transcripts and accompanied by grades but which didn’t actually exist, 47% of these students were athletes. The unearned grades boosted the student-athletes’ GPAs to meet the minimum grades required to remain eligible for their teams. Fans and rivals alike questioned the number of athletes over the years who remained on their teams through unethical means.
In Oct. 2014, UNC made public a 131-page report written by Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, which scrutinized the university’s dishonor in its handling of several reports of cheating that it swept under the rug to maintain prestige.
According to the International Business Times, the report cited administrative assistant Deborah Crowder as a major perpetrator of the fraud, as she posed as the professor of several fabricated African and Afro-American Studies classes, gifting grades to students enrolled in her fake classes based on one assignment: a research paper that she, as a non-faculty member, did not impose high standards upon in grading.
For most Marlborough students, the scandal carried out at UNC seems hard to believe. In a community that prides itself on principles such as the Honor Code, Marlborough students and faculty often forget that outside the School’s walls, the same ethics don’t apply.
Rachel ’15 stated her belief that the professors and administrators involved in the fraud are not the kind of people she would expect at such a highly regarded university.
“I’m honestly shocked that anybody would put that much time and effort into something like this. I think people would be more forgiving if it was a one time incident,…. This is way more elaborate and intentional” Rachel said.
The full extent of the scheme is still unknown; while at this point, nine employees have been reprimanded or removed from their positions, investigators remain unsure of some faculty members’ and coaches’ roles in the crime.
In an interview with the Associated Press, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt addressed the issue of taking the blame within the university. Because the web of lies spreads throughout departments, she believed the entire university must accept responsibility, as opposed to a particular team or teacher.
“I think it’s very clear that this is an academic, an athletic, and a university problem,” Folt explained.
For now, Americans ranging from prospective students to college basketball fans wait to see how UNC will recover from the scandal. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has yet to officially pass judgment on the issue of athletes who benefitted from the scam.