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North Carolina Academic Scandal: A Terrifying Proposal

Streeter Lecka

Brian Rosenburg, president of Macalester College, has written a piece on The Chronicle of Higher Education that goes a step further than anyone else in reaction to the recent scandal at the University of North Carolina. He is no less than calling for their head:

The response, regardless of the visibility or reputation or wealth of the institution, should be to suspend accredited status until there is evidence that an appropriate level of integrity is both culturally and structurally in place.

A university with suspended accreditation cannot graduate anyone. The last time I saw this happen was at Sue Bennet College in London, Kentucky. The result of that move was that within a year the college was entirely gone with its staff and students dispersing to neighboring institutions.

Mr. Rosenburg's proposal is nothing short of terrifying, all the more so because this is a university president publicly calling for UNC's head, not some Joe Schmoe off the street. If one university president feels this way about what has happened, what do the others think? What does the accrediting agencies UNC reports to think? Could this happen? Could UNC survive?

His post does make one thing clear - the activities entailed in The Wainstein Report reach far beyond athletics to the very core of the integrity of UNC as an academic institution. If the regulating bodies in question do not act then their integrity is too called into question. As Mr. Rosenburg says, "Why bother?" with accreditation when there is no follow through on enforcement?

UNC issued over 3000 tainted or outright phoney degrees including one in five athletes over the course of 18 years. Sports writers have been clamoring for some sort of sports punishment by the NCAA, with terms like "death penalty" thrown around, TV and post season bans. Apologists for UNC have stated that it's not an athletic issue since most of the degrees were issued to non-athletes, some going so far as to claim UNC should get no punishment at all since the NCAA already has issued punishments for at least some of the students involved in the scandal. Punishments issued before the true magnitude of wrongdoing was known. These rationalizations, however, play straight into the narrative of the punishment Mr. Rosenburg feels is appropriate.

Mr. Rosenburg is calling for something an order of magnitude worse than anything the NCAA can do - shut the school down entirely. I imagine what this would involve is every, and I do mean every person involved in the governance of UNC being dismissed, the university shutting its doors for at least a year while the state boards assemble a new governance to take the reigns. But could any university survive this?

That question terrifies me. It should terrify any alumni to think about the possibility of their alma mater simply not existing anymore. Now that no less than a sitting university president has stepped forth and called for just that its a possibility the UNC community must seriously consider.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm from a bitter sports rival to UNC, the University of Kentucky. But I don't want to see UNC's doors closed. I don't want to think about any school being closed. I've seen the impact of the loss of a small school on a community with Sue Bennett's demise, and it is nothing short of sad. No community deserves this. I hope that whatever comes of the report that it doesn't involve the loss of the entire University. Far too many people in no way connected to the scandal would be adversely and profoundly affected.