Chapel Hill: Opinion

The conversation, Nov. 16: Ronald Bogle, Walter Mack, N.V. Parlikad, Virginia Penley

Willingham was raked over coals

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill could have saved at least $2 million, and prevented the good name and reputation of a dedicated researcher from being sullied had it heeded Mary Willingham’s warnings that there was skullduggery afoot between AFAM and the athletic department.

As early as November 2012, Willingham went public in an N&O interview charging that the university was recruiting illiterate student athletes and steering them to sham lecture courses they were not required to attend. But apparently it fell on deaf ears or was simply ignored by those in the ivory tower. Nevertheless, outside the university she was recognized and honored with the Robert Maynard Hutchins Award for defending academic integrity in the face of omnipotent college athletics.

But it took a CNN interview which became viral to catch the attention of UNC higher ups who vented their wrath on Willingham and vehemently denied her claims that some student athletes were essentially illiterate and reading at fourth- to eighth-grade levels.

While the news media feasted on the scandal, Willingham was raked over the coals and excoriated for what the university said were false and malicious allegations that academically disadvantaged student-athletes were being allowed to enroll in fake African American courses designed to boost their GPAs and make them eligible to play.

As often happens to whistle-blowers, Willingham was muzzled and forbidden to conduct any further meaningful work. Later, she was forced to submit her resignation.

But as more questions were raised than could be answered, the university engaged former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein to investigate and issue a comprehensive 131-page report on the matter of academic fraud at UNC. The Wainstein report substantiated all that Willingham had been alleging and vindicated her totally of charges that her research was flawed and malicious.

While the scandal reverberates in the halls of academia, the university is facing a possible NCAA investigation and sanctions like those that hit Penn State. The university’s accreditation is in jeopardy as well. There is no question the university needs to apologize to Willingham. The bigger question is whether the university restores Willingham to her former position or gives her reparations in the form of a buy-out.

Walter Mack

Chapel Hill

Police not the enemy

Kevin Kirk writes in his guest column (CHN, bit.ly/1zku6yD) that he and his wife, joining friends, visited the UNC campus to view a student group sponsored movie, “The Purge: Anarchy.” Not the “feel good” hit of the year, this movie depicts a 12-hour period when all crime, including murder, is legal. Chaos reigns supreme.

Kirk described his assessment of the event: “dismayed,” “disappointed,” “uneasy feeling,” “livid,” “reactionary and shallow,” “dumbfounded” and “dreadful miscalculation.” Seems his extreme emotional distress was not caused by the violent and chaotic movie. Instead, it was caused by the Student Center presence of law enforcement officers.

He describes the wearing of law enforcement gear as being “equipped to repel firefights, ... threatening violence.” He imagines (”Then it dawned on me”) this a university effort, sending in “militarized law enforcement officers,” to stifle a status quo challenge from the student group. He even takes offense at the officers wearing body armor, “as if they were preparing for battle.”

For the record, every 58 minutes in America, another law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty, and, on average, 58,000 are assaulted annually. More than 20,000 have been killed in our history, with gunshot the leading cause of death. Body armor (a protective vest) is not a tool of aggression – it is tool of protection.

Ironically, he reports no involvement, exchange, challenge or misconduct by police directed toward any moviegoer. He does, however, toss in an unrelated complaint about an “authoritative” employee who “demanded” to see their university card for admission.

The so-called police “militarization” issue exists in the minds of some. The question is whether the issue is real or imagined in Chapel Hill, a town where police enjoys the highest rating of any city department in satisfaction surveys of residents.

But even in our town, there have been many reminders that extreme violence and other serious crime exists. Too many innocents have fallen victim of it. Not at the hands of law enforcement, but at the hands of the most dangerous elements in society, some who often perceive our community as an easy target. To do the dangerous tasks few among us have the willingness to undertake, we rightly ask, even demand that law enforcement officers step forward to protect us and our property from such characters.

Kirk adds the coup de grace when suggesting, because of officers’ presence there, this may not be the place for his daughter to attend college. Judging by the number of applicants waiting to take her place, it seems likely most others don’t share his fear or sense that law enforcement poses a threat to residents.

Except in one’s imagination, the police in Chapel Hill are not the enemy of the people. Belief that disarming them because of some imaginary fear will not make our town safer or more secure – it will only put us more at risk.

Ronald E. Bogle

Chapel Hill

Editor’s note: We waived the length limit to allow a fuller response to the column.

Pathetic democracy

It is pathetic to see that the oldest democracy in the world has, perhaps, the lowest voting percentage.

It appears that nearly two-thirds of the eligible voters did not feel it worthwhile to go the polling booth and exercise their fundamental right.

Perhaps compulsory voting should be considered, without affecting the right of free speech.

In India, a new option appears in the voting machine, “None of the Above,” if the voter does not want to vote to any of the candidates. A similar option could be tried here too.

Further , the federal and the state governments could deny some state services like free education, old age pension etc. to citizens who don’t vote.

The U.S. colonies got their independence from Britain on the basis of “No taxation without representation” and the same people are now indifferent to use their right to be represented. Unless some serious steps are taken, democracy as we dream of may be in danger. A government of the people, for the people and by the people may soon become a government for the few, by the few and for the few.

N. V. Parlikad

Chapel Hill

Disenfranchisement

The low number of young people voting this year was no accident, nor was it due to disaffection by many of the young people.

House Bill 589 made changes to the bureaucratic rules regulating voter registration/address changes, which it seems were designed to eliminate them from the rolls of active voters.

No longer are high school students registered actively in high schools by the local boards of elections.

Apparently the DMV has stopped registering them with their new drivers’ licenses, claiming it is too complicated to figure out the birthday as it relates to their first eligible election. Of course this is a straw man since the board of elections managed to seamlessly accomplish this task for years.

And unfortunately forms sent by the bureaucracy generated by DMV license address changes have the effect of eliminating voters from the rolls in their old county without generating an address change and new registration in their new county.

These changes require the voter to fill out additional, unspecified paperwork to stay registered to vote, which is a right not a privilege. Of course all these bureaucratic machinations could be solved if Gov. McCrory would simply endorse the Fourth Circuit’s ruling and allow for same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting. Instead, he stopped the federal court from allowing them this year.

I know this to be true because my daughter and my son-in-law, who are frequent voters, were disenfranchised this past election in Wake County due to the operation of law.

They were transformed from frequent registered voters to unregistered citizens without their knowledge and by the time they became aware of the problem they were ineligible to vote.

This is wrong. This is unAmerican. And this bureaucratic nonsense designed to disenfranchise voters needs to be fixed.

Virginia Penley

Chapel Hill

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