A story on Nov. 6 included an incorrect word, "incriminatory," in a quote from Stephen Leonard, a UNC-CH political science professor, who was speaking at a session of the university's Faculty Athletics Committee. The quote should have read: "What I heard was finger pointing, wagon circling, ungenerous insult, self-righteous pontificating, a lot of charges that implied some type of recriminatory intent."
CHAPEL HILL - Reaching consensus on the role of athletics at UNC-Chapel Hill is proving to be a difficult proposition in the aftermath of last month's Wainstein report.
The university's Faculty Athletics Committee is hosting listening sessions to hear from professors about where the university should go after the report, which revealed 18 years of no-show paper classes involving 3,100 students and disproportionate numbers of athletes. The committee is delving into athletes' admissions, time demands and experiences with faculty.
After last week's crowded and tense faculty meeting, Wednesday's forum was sparsely attended.
But opinions were strong, nonetheless. Some suggested faculty need to challenge the notion that UNC has to compete at the highest level in sports. Others say that with policy changes already enacted - and more to come - the university can tighten its grip on the athletic enterprise and restore its academic reputation.
"I think it's fair that some of our colleagues think that we shouldn't be playing Division I athletics, that we shouldn't have any athletic scholarships, any special talent admissions," said Andrew Perrin, a sociology professor and member of the committee. "We can have those conversations, but I think as a matter of realism, those are probably not things that are on the agenda for us right now."
Another committee member, John Stephens of the School of Government, pointed out that UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt has said she thinks academics and athletics can coexist and thrive at the university.
Hassan Melehy, professor in romance languages, said there needs to be pushback on that idea.
"It is the duty of the Faculty Council to advise the chancellor," Melehy said. "If we decide that she is mistaken about that, we need to say so."
Joy Renner, chairwoman of the committee, said there should be more discussion and a better consensus on what the university wants to be when it comes to athletics.
"I don't know if we can be a research university and a Division I competitive school," she said. "That upsets some people when I say that. I believe more that we can now than I did three years ago. I was very skeptical three years ago that that could happen."
Part of the problem, say some committee members, is figuring out what constitutes classroom success for student-athletes. Is it the grade point average, the NCAA's academic progress rate, minimum eligibility or graduation rates? There is no one standard.
A long way to go
Stephen Leonard, a UNC-CH political science professor and chairman of the UNC system's Faculty Assembly, said the failures outlined in the Wainstein report were primarily on the academic side of the university and need to be addressed by academic officials.
He said last week's outpouring of emotion at the faculty meeting showed there is a long way to go to reach agreement.
"What I heard was finger pointing, wagon circling, ungenerous insult, self-righteous pontificating, a lot of charges that implied some type of recriminatory intent," he said.
Leonard asked the committee whether they had reviewed the new report on athletics for the UNC Board of Governors, which includes data on sports spending, academic performance and clustering of athletes in certain majors. The committee said it had seen some of the data but not the entire report.
He said he'd like to know what to tell faculty and staff at other UNC system schools about what the Chapel Hill faculty has done to protect its responsibility for the academic mission. "They're paying the price for this on their campuses, too," Leonard said.
Athletics committee members have a burden of having to "audit" a sprawling athletics system that they don't completely understand, said Marc Cohen, a faculty member in the English department. And the group doesn't have unilateral power, he said.
"A number of the voices that have been speaking assume that we have greater power as a faculty than I think we do, and assume that we as a Faculty Athletics Committee have greater knowledge and power than we have," Cohen said. "I think that's important and it's something to face up to, because we can't change the system until we fully understand what our power is and who we have to work with in order to make change."
Melehy responded: "Where is the power in the university if it's not in the faculty?"