The University of North Carolina’s “shadow curriculum”

The University of North Carolina’s “shadow curriculum” October 24, 2014

For eighteen years, the University of North Carolina has had a “shadow curriculum” in which students didn’t have to attend classes or do any work, and yet received A’s.  Over three thousand students took advantage of this program, only half of them athletes.

From Chuck Culpepper, Wainstein probe implicates over 3,000 students in University of North Carolina academic scandal – The Washington Post:

An eight-month probe has estimated that the “shadow curriculum” that existed at the University of North Carolina from 1993 to 2011 offered a grade-point boost from phony coursework to more than 3,100 students, including a disproportionately high percentage of student-athletes.

The report, released Wednesday after an investigation led by attorney and former Department of Justice official Kenneth Wainstein, also provided the deepest reading to date on the link between student-athlete counselors and the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. In particular, it details a slide presentation to the North Carolina football staff in November 2009 that warned coaches that the “shadow curriculum” would desist because of the retirement of its designer.

One slide from the presentation noted that counselors from the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) read: “We put (athletes) in classes that met degree requirements in which:

— They didn’t go to class

— They didn’t take notes or have to stay awake

— They didn’t have to meet with professors

— They didn’t have to pay attention or necessarily engage with the material.”

The slide then warned in capital letters: “THESE NO LONGER EXIST,” indicating that an effective mechanism for keeping athletes academically eligible had subsided. The North Carolina head football coach at the time, Butch Davis, denied in Wainstein’s report that he could remember the slide.

“The thing that was the most striking was the slide presentation,” Wainstein told The Washington Post Wednesday evening.

The alarm among some student-athlete counselors came at the retirement of Deborah Crowder, a secretary in the African and Afro-American Studies department. Crowder had begun the “shadow curriculum” about a year after Julius Nyang’oro became head of the department and practiced indifferent oversight, according to the report.

“She designed and offered what are called ‘paper classes,’” the Wainstein report reads. She would give the courses numbers, grade the final papers after a cursory check of proper length and sign Nyang’oro’s name to the grades.

“That this would have gone so far that an administrator (and not a faculty member) would be assigning a grade, it was such a shock,” Carol Folt, the university’s new chancellor, said in a conference call on Wednesday morning.

A number of the students’ papers included brief introductions and closings with only “fluff” in between, according to the report.

“Hundreds” of the courses, the report reads, were independent-study. Yet when the university tightened standards on the amount of independent study a student could undertake, Crowder altered her program, creating courses she identified as lecture courses, but which mirrored independent study in that lectures never happened. The Wainstein report found 188 such courses between 1999 and 2011, in which 47.4 percent of the enrollments in these “paper classes” were student-athletes, who generally comprise 4 percent of the student population. Once Crowder retired in 2009, Nyang’oro sustained the practices for two more years until his retirement in 2011, albeit less voluminously.

[Keep reading. . . ]

See also this for the lack of administrative oversight and the University’s accreditation problems.

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