Steve Kirschner: We want educational quality for student-athletes

November 21, 2012 

We want educational quality for student-athletes

Your Nov. 18 front-page article “UNC tolerated cheating, insider says” questioned the integrity of the University of North Carolina’s academic support program for student-athletes. This charge was unfair to the counselors who are professional and genuinely care about the quality of education that student-athletes receive. And it was especially unfair to student-athletes who come to Carolina to get an education and play a sport.

You ignored important information that the university provided and instead focused on the account of one person. For example, the story claimed that men’s basketball players took courses that a UNC review determined to be irregular until Jennifer Townsend, who became the team’s counselor in fall 2009, stopped enrolling players because she was appalled by those classes. Townsend did not make that statement about any classes offered to student-athletes.

Basketball enrollments in African and Afro-American Studies decreased after 2009 because the number of players majoring in AFAM had decreased. The last men’s basketball player to major in AFAM graduated in 2009. Players continued to take some classes in AFAM as electives or to satisfy requirements of the College, but not to satisfy the requirements of a major. Thus, the decrease in enrollments.

Former Gov. Jim Martin and Baker Tilly, an accounting and auditing firm, are currently reviewing the academic issues, including those referenced in the article. We look forward to that report.

The UNC administration has taken steps to identify and correct any problems that have been identified. Multiple reviews and audits have undertaken to examine department oversight, class enrollment, instructor workload, academic support protocols and grading processes. And dozens of reforms and new policies have been implemented across the university in both academics and athletics.

Finally, your readers should know that Mary Willingham [a university reading specialist who formerly worked with student-athletes, and who was interviewed for the article] was interviewed in the fall of 2010 as part of the joint NCAA/university review of the football program, so the NCAA is well aware of the statements she made at that time.

Steve Kirschner

Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Communications

UNC-Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill

The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the article, which stated this with respect to the views of Jennifer Townsend: “Members of the men’s basketball team took no-show classes until the fall of 2009, when the team was assigned a new academic counselor. The new counselor was appalled to learn of the classes, and wanted no part of them.”

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