''I think the existence of fake classes and automatic grades - you might say an athlete track, where essentially you might as well not have the university at all - I think that's pretty extreme. I hope it's pretty extreme,'' said Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education who studies cheating. He was referring to the UNC Chapel Hill scandal, in which it was discovered that some 1500 student athletes were allowed to take fake courses for which they were assigned high grades based only on an essay that was briefly skimmed by a non-faculty administrator. An investigation has been completed, resulting in several firings, and the NCAA is still considering its next steps.
Of course, this sort of skirting of academic standards to accommodate student athletes is hardly unheard-of, and one could even call this a dog-bites-man story, unworthy of much attention--except for one widely ignored detail: nearly half the 3100 students given credit for the bogus courses were athletes. In other words, more than half the students given credit for the bogus courses weren't athletes at all.
Some obvious questions that will probably never receive an answer:
1) How did non-athletes hear about and register for these courses?
2) Was every student who asked to register for these courses accepted, and if not, what criteria were used to accept some and reject others?
3) If benefiting the UNC athletic program and its athletes was the internal rationale for offering these bogus courses to athletes, then what other internal rationale justified offering them to non-athletes?
4) Why does the press insist on treating this scandal as a matter of excessive indulgence of student athletes, when over half the beneficiaries were non-athletes?
5) If UNC could show this sort of rampant disregard for academic standards irrespective of campus athletics, then why shouldn't we expect it to be endemic in the American university system as a whole, also irrespective of campus athletics?