Jay M. Smith: Counselors’ concerns

November 27, 2012 

Counselors’ concerns

I was disheartened to see Senior Associate Athletics Director Steve Kirschner respond (“We want educational quality for UNC-Chapel Hill student-athletes,” Nov. 21 letter) to the revelations of the Mary Willingham story by seeking to discredit Willingham [a university reading specialist] and her testimony. This continues an unfortunate pattern at UNC, where embarrassing news involving the athletics program continues to bring forth claims that all problems are anomalous, all necessary fixes are in the works and all who continue to demand more information are unfair.

A wealth of evidence indicates that academic counselors knowingly steered athletes toward easy and, in some cases, fraudulent classes over the past decade or so. Yet Kirschner would have us believe that basketball players stayed away from Julius Nyang’oro’s courses beginning in 2009 not because a newly hired counselor with scruples refused to play along – as Willingham reports – but because, well, they suddenly lost interest in those particular academic pursuits. The statement strains credulity.

If Kirschner wants educational quality for all athletes, should he not show some concern for the grave institutional lapses revealed by Willingham? Indeed, why not seize on Willingham’s courageous example and urge all other counselors to share their secrets? Everyone at UNC is anxious for the nightmare to end, but ultimately only the truth will set us free.

Jay M. Smith

Professor of History, UNC-Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill

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