Friday, October 24, 2014

UNC-CH and Putting a Mustache on a Pig

This is one of those days on which you'll have to spot me a personal blog that may have an impact on your life and work.

Unless you've been quarantined for Ebola for the past 4 years you're probably aware of the academic/athletic scam that happened at UNC-Chapel Hill. A professor and an administrative assistant created bogus courses with the blessing of a few counselors and administrators. The courses were created to help athletes remain eligible for play. The scam evolved over a twenty-year period.

During the past twenty years some 97,000 undergrads have gone through the
UNC-CH system. Of that total, approximately 3,000 undergrads (1400 were
athletes) of that total took 6,000 bogus courses in the AFAM Dept (average
of 2 courses per each of 3,000 students) which were established and given by
one rogue professor and his one administrative assistant.

You need 40 courses to graduate from UNC so the 2 (on average) courses that
these 3000 students took for the 'bogus grades' represent 5% of the needed
courses to graduate.

So,  bottom line is that only one UNC academic department (AFAM), one UNC
professor and one administrative assistant were committing academic fraud at
UNC.

This still does not excuse this happening and why the highly paid
administrators at UNC were not managing the business at UNC and thus
preventing the scam.

Reading the news and listening to the TV/Radio one would think that all the
Departments and students were taking bogus classes at UNC-CH.

My point is simply this, while it is wonderfully correct about the numbers 3000 out of 97000 students and 2 out of 40 courses, in terms of real life none of that matters...other than in our attempts to rationalize the issue

Here's the deal...the public, folks outside the UNC family, don't care and in most cases aren't smart enough to understand the numbers...they are convinced by the stories...I can assure you that there have already been job recruiters asking students in job interviews if they took courses and if they did I believe the recruiter's perception of them goes down

I know for a fact that recruiters were asking about the Marvin Austin/Butch Davis stuff (the incident that prompted the investigations that have led us to this point) in interviews as soon as it happened...the issue gives people a negative image of Carolina that has impacts most of us don't think about.

Try this simple exercise: You are a recruiter on campus and you have a UNC senior sitting in front of you. You ask, "Did you take bogus classes?" If they did, even if the rest of their grades are good, what are you thinking? If they didn't, due to the fact that you asked the question, what are THEY thinking? Students better be coming up with answers that put a mustache on this pig.

We all get the organizational changes that need to be made, but this is now a PR problem and will be for a decade. The best way to deal with it is a strategy we can't use...if Bill Friday or Dean Smith could be interviewed telling the 3000 vs 97000 story it would calm our folks and give a balanced perspective...Roy can't do it, Michael Jordan's loved but he's a jock and we have no one else well-known enough....'course, the comedian and UNC alum Lewis Black could do it but everyone would want to shoot themselves in the head.

Walt Whitman said, "The public is a thick-skinned beast and you have to keep whacking it on it's side to get its attention." That is true whether the message is good or bad. All we can do now is start whacking people with the positive message.

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