UNC faculty members want athletic department to pursue academics

acarter@newsobserver.comFebruary 17, 2012 

— A group of faculty members at the University of North Carolina has urged the university to pursue athletic excellence “on a foundation of academic integrity” while remaining consistent to the university’s overall mission.

The faculty members on Friday released a statement through the university that called for UNC’s athletic department to better align itself with the rest of the university community. Jay Smith, a UNC history professor, led several faculty meetings during the past several months about the future of athletics at UNC.

The university, meanwhile, is still waiting for the NCAA to rule on the impermissible benefits and academic fraud cases that erupted within the UNC football program in 2010. The scandal tarnished UNC’s academic reputation and eventually led to the firing of football coach Butch Davis.

The statement that Smith and his group released on Friday called for the UNC athletic department to reflect three primary principles: Institutional openness, educational responsibility and mission consistency.

“We hope that this statement can provide a point of departure for public discussion and a foundation that the athletic program and the University as a whole can build on in the months and years ahead,” Smith said in a statement.

The statement of principles that Smith and other faculty members wrote has been endorsed by 112 members of the UNC faculty. Smith and other faculty members acknowledged UNC’s mostly-clean record of athletic success.

But the faculty members wrote, “in light of recent developments, however, we insist that the pursuit of athletic excellence at UNC-Chapel Hill must rest on a foundation of academic integrity and should always reflect” the three principles of openness, responsibility and consistency to the UNC’s mission.

The statement called for the UNC athletic department to “commit itself to honest, open, regular conversation” about the conflicts that exist between academic and athletic success. Faculty members demanded that “all data needed to understand the athletics department” be made readily available. Further, faculty members insisted that “the university should commit itself to providing a rigorous and meaningful education to every student.” They called for athletes to be fully integrated in the campus community, and for athletics “to be integrated into the common enterprise of the university.”

The faculty members demanded that UNC create faculty-led oversight committees “to oversee athletics and ensure that it supports and remains in alignment with the University's core missions.”

Carter: 919-829-8944

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