Did UNC Make the Cut?
by: Nick Yetman
UNC’s five year plan is about to come to a close. How did the university do? Unfortunately the school suffered many setbacks that derailed its plans for the future. In specific, the academic scandal in the football program that dated back to the late 1990s has delegitimized the African-American studies department as well as putting a strain on UNC athletics. The scandal created a national firestorm that eventually led to Chancellor Holden Thorp announcing his resignation. Contrarily, the school has grown and thrived despite cuts by the North Carolina legislative branch and remains one of the most distinguished universities in the country.
The scandal started, innocently enough, as an investigation into the football program. The administration did not want to face the truth and arguably tried to hide it. This was the biggest scandal to ever rock an athletics program. While the scandal was technically involved in the academic department, 67% of the students in the 54 tainted classes were athletes. This scandal not only implicated the football team, but also a basketball team that went to three Final Fours and won two national championships, both of which are very much in jeopardy. This was all a result of academic advisors steering athletes to nonexistent classes in Julius Nyang’oro’s African and Afro-American Department.
The second biggest discovered academic scandal was at Florida State and involved 61 athletes almost all from the same class. Florida State’s football team was forced to vacate two seasons of Bobby Bowden’s victories, suffered scholarship restrictions, and received four years of probation. North Carolina’s punishment will very likely be much worse. This scandal tarnishes the academic integrity the university prides itself in and may even deter more academically qualified students from applying to the school. This incident has been the low point for the university over the last five years, nonetheless the school has persevered through this and continues to become more and more internationally renowned.
The University of North Carolina continues to be the best valued public university in the country because it offers “stellar academics” at rock-bottom prices, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. The magazine has been rating the best valued public universities since 1998 and the University of North Carolina has been first every single time. The school has also been consistently ranked as one of the best public universities in the country and is one of the top 50 schools in the world year after year. The North Carolina legislature has cut the school’s budget, with the crisis being the most severe in the summer of 2011. $100 million dollars or 18% of the university’s budget was cut that fiscal year. Despite this, the university continued to draw in some of the best students not only in its state, but in the country. This past year the school had 29,486 students apply to the university last year and offered admission to 7,571 of them. This means that the university only had a 25% acceptance rate. The ability of the school to be very selective in who it chooses to attend the university has raised the academic “worth” of the students over the past five years. The school continues to be one of the leaders in academic excellence.
Even though the school’s five year plan has encountered some setbacks the school continues to be admired worldwide. UNC has been a stellar leader among universities and will continue to be in the future, however if it does not face the realities of its academic scandal and own up to it, the school’s reputation will continue to be tarnished. The truth hurts, but the University of North Carolina needs to face the truth.
The university over the next five years should work on putting the academic scandal to rest and appropriately punishing the people responsible for it. If that means vacating their two national titles then that is what needs to be done. The university needs to move on in order to get out of the national spotlight for its scandals. Once UNC moves on the university will be able to once again focus on offering quality education at a bargain price. The university has done an admirable job dealing with current budget cuts but cannot keep this up forever. Eventually the quality education they offer will suffer if cuts to their budget are not stopped in the near future. If they take care of what they can control (the scandal) and advocate for what they cannot (budget cutbacks) they will come out an even better institution then they already are.