As a researcher who studies university accreditation, I believe we’ve reached a turning point in higher education with the decision to place the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on probation.
It’s the first time in more than 10 years the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools put a large research-extensive institution on probation for noncompliance with principles of academic integrity directly connected to its intercollegiate athletic program.
This decision has set a precedent for future violations involving academic scandals connected to college sports. Institutions must consider not only penalties from the NCAA but also consequences for the entire institution related to accreditation.
The SACS decision sends a strong message about the need to properly align the goals and values of intercollegiate athletics with those of the academic institution. Can an entity with the purpose of generating large sums of revenue and winning at all costs co-exist within an institution whose values center on academic integrity and educational quality?
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To get off probation, UNC-CH will have to demonstrate specific ways in which academic integrity has been restored and put measures in place to ensure that it is protected above all. What happens at UNC-CH will be instructive for all higher education institutions with comparable athletic programs.
Associate professor, N.C. State University