Wednesday, October 22, 2014

College Needs Training in Responsibility or Penalties for Fraud?

The ugly scandal at one American university with a stellar record for athletic achievement, the University of North Carolina, has bubbled out of its well-hidden ivory tower encampment and the stench is awful. Twenty years or more in the making and active participation in promoting educational fraud and one of their management team had little of believable substance to offer.

Seems, she said, "we have to do a better job of training for responsibility." Can you buy this? Training for responsibility--just what does that mean in anything other than PRspeak? Don't people come to higher education settings with that programmed into their DNA by years of acting responsibly? I'm talking about administrators, not students here. What wonderful role models they are. They not only make this type of academic fraud possible, it seems that they promoted it, although we don't have all the details at this moment.

What we do know is more than disturbing. Wouldn't you want to, if you were so inclined, get a degree without ever having to take a course with anything but one paper to write? And, of course, you could always buy a paper or write it in whatever incoherent drivel you wished and you'd get a more-than-generous grade to pass. No you wouldn't. What's more, it seems the courses were myths that really didn't exist on anything but some administrator's computer. Wouldn't you agree that this is out and out theft of a certain type? Theft of academic promise, theft of future security and deception of the most egregious type.

The administration in either one department, or maybe more, handled everything for the athletes. How dishonorable can they be and how did they think they were benefiting the athletes? Obviously, they were only benefiting the school's athletics program and keeping the funds flowing from really happy alumni. Are the alumni still happy and will the athletes ever get anything from their worthless sheepskins?

Okay, you wouldn't do this because you actually believe that going to college means you agree to stick to the honor code and you really want to learn something. College isn't just something to keep you in your parents' home or in a cushy lifestyle out of the dog-eat-dog job world.

The coaches claim that they were totally unaware of the deception. I can't buy that one either if the coaches have functioning neurons in their noodles. They do plan incredibly accurate and winning plays for their teams, don't they? Don't they also demand intense practice, workouts and whatever will benefit the sport in which they participate? How can the athletes get these grades if they spend most of their time in sports activities? No, it doesn't wash.

Are we now going to hear the moans of the upper levels of the school where they also knew all of this was too good to be true? Whose head/s will roll here? One chairman has already left before the full impact of the deception hit the media. Should he have legal charges against him? Should the parents of athletes have the right to sue for theft of services or some other legal action? Did the athletes get an education or were they just pawns in all of this? No one is going to accept the jocks as pawns, either, I believe. They fully knew what they weren't doing and they knew it wasn't kosher, but they continued because it had been so well run that being caught didn't seem to be an option.

It's like something out of the TV series "Breaking Bad." Slowly the scheme rolls forward and with each success, the darker side of the personalities begin to take over and out the door goes ethics, honor and reputation. We've seen it before and we'll see it again. Does money play such a commanding role in higher education that considerations of academic honesty must be pushed aside?

Certainly the fall of Joe Paterno at Penn State cast a glaring and very unflattering light on college athletics. Paterno denied he knew anything about the sex scandal that was about to unseat him and rattle the school to its very core. I'm not saying he did anything other than tend to football.  But it seems he should have also been attending to other things that needed immediate intervention. Kids were being sexually abused by someone to whom he gave free rein in the lockers, shower rooms and other areas of his domain.

Sports are supposed to instill a spirit of cooperation in groups and leadership skills that will last a lifetime. At least that's what we psychologists have always thought and it's one of the reasons people supported the initiatives to get equal funds for women's college sports activities. But sports are one aspect of personality development and you can't shove your principles under the proverbial basket and leave them behind as you go about promoting sports at all costs.

Dishonor has been brought on the school and careers may have been ruined. I wonder how many will take early retirement and leave the poorly served athletes swinging in the wind.