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Tar Heel Scandal and the Myth of the University » The Epoch Times

Tar Heel Scandal and the Myth of the University » The Epoch Times.

The great lie of American higher education is the idea of the university.

We all believe these places exist. Not just in the physical sense–there they are–but as coherent organizations that operate with something resembling identifiable cultures, values, systems, and ideas of themselves. Our whole system of rationing, financing, and credentialing higher education depends on this notion. Yet, it is largely a myth. The American university does not actually exist as we believe it does. For evidence of this, see the academic scandal consuming the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Raleigh News & Observer has the most comprehensive coverage of the scandal, which first came to light in 2011, when a suspended UNC football player sued to have his eligibility restored. His court documents included a paper he had submitted for a Swahili class allegedly taught by the chairman of the UNC African and Afro-American Studies Department, Julius Nyang’oro. Fans of rival NC State quickly determined that the paper had been plagiarized.

That pulled string unraveled what appears to be a major credit mill fraud operation being run with total impunity inside one of America’s premiere public research universities. Multiple independent investigations suggest that hundreds of African and Afro-American Studies Department courses offered over more than a decade, many “taught” by Nyang’oro, simply did not exist. No syllabi were created, no lectures delivered, no grading standards imposed. Hundreds of additional courses grades were changed and hundreds more “independent study” grades awarded. A large and disproportionate number of students involved were male football and basketball players. As a result, UNC’s chancellor and football coach both lost their jobs, and Nyang’oro was indicted on felony charges last week.

This is, to say the least, awkward for UNC Chapel Hill. Like all universities, particularly those with prestige, it depends on the idea that it actually exists, in the sense that a UNC Chapel Hill degree means something that is common to all other UNC Chapel Hill degrees and distinct from all degrees awarded by other universities. The elaborate marketing schemes and high-stakes admissions tournaments run by elite universities suppose that admission means something other than the act of selection itself, that the experience of going to school in Chapel Hill is tangible, identifiable, and in some way real.

In fact, none of this is true. UNC Chapel Hill is not a coherent undergraduate institution. It’s a holding company that provides shared marketing, finance, and physical plant services for a group of autonomous departments, which are in turn holding companies for autonomous scholars who teach as they please. This is the only possible explanation for the years-long, wholly undetected operation of the African and Afro-American Studies Department credit fraud scam. Or, rather, it’s the only possible explanation other than a huge, organization-wide conspiracy in which the university administration, department, and football team colluded to hand out fake grades to hundreds of athletes.

The university, of course, vehemently denies that anything resembling the latter scenario is true. Despite damning emails between Nyang’oro and the athletic department, UNC is desperately selling the story that the entire credit fraud operation was the work of just two people–Nyang’oro and an assistant–and involved no athletic department wrongdoing of any kind. That’s because while academic misconduct gets you nothing more than a wrist-slap from your accreditor and year of sad/absurd “monitoring” in which the university administration randomly checks classes to make sure they actually exist, athletic misconduct can cost the university things it actually cares about, like money, bowl appearances, and athletic scholarships.

In other words, the only way for UNC administrators to avoid blame for gross academic misconduct is to admit that academic conduct was never their concern.

Meanwhile, the football team must be saved because the intense tribal loyalty generated by big-time sports is one of the chief mechanisms employed by universities to create the illusion that they exist. I’ve lived in Chapel Hill and experienced the closest thing to full-scale Dionysian revelry one is likely to find in modern America, on Franklin Street after the men’s basketball team won it all. It was thrilling. It felt like we were one people, all of us, conquerors. But it was also an illusion (I wasn’t a student at the time), a false consciousness manufactured by the university to conceal its non-existence as an academic institution.

The cynicism and dishonesty inherent to that seep into the cracks of university life, occasionally as outright criminality but far more often as mediocrity and simple indifference. If Julius Nyang’oro had simply bothered to show up in a room on campus from time to time, say something–anything–to some “student” athletes, and hand out a bunch of A-minuses, he never would have been caught. In the modern non-university, he wouldn’t even have been doing something wrong.

This article was first published on the New America Foundation website. Read the original. 

The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers, breakthrough research, and policy innovation to address the most important challenges facing the United States.

Education protests challenge the market – which makes them a target | Michael Chessum | Comment is free | theguardian.com

Education protests challenge the market – which makes them a target | Michael Chessum | Comment is free | theguardian.com.

A 'Cops Off Campus' protest – Dec 2013

‘The demand that police get off campuses is not just about defending civil liberties. It is also about what kind of education system we want.’ Photograph: Gail Orenstein/Corbis

Three years on from the threefold increase in tuition fees in 2010, opposition to the government’s marketisation of university education is regenerating, with protests and occupations across the UK. Both the demands of this emerging movement, and the policing measures it has faced, are a sign of things to come in 2014 and may well mark a broader shift in how we challenge austerity.

Since October, the higher education sector has co-ordinated national pay strikes by all three major trade unions, widespread picketing and a number of student occupations. The political basis of this movement has centred around opposition to privatisation – from the outsourcing of services to the sell-off of student debt.

On 4 December, police raided the University of London’s management offices, where a student occupation was taking place, to demandpensions for outsourced cleaning staff and a reversal of the university’s decision to abolish its student union. The eviction took place without court proceedings, and in the following 48 hours, 40 students werearrested and others were assaulted by the Metropolitan police. Some were placed on bail conditions banning them from congregating in public in groups of more than four. It marked a low point in a series of police intrusion on to the campus, including an activist arrested for allegedlychalking slogans in support of cleaners’ strikes, and my own arrest.

In the same period, the University of Sussex suspended five studentsfrom their studies, and the University of Birmingham threatened to hit two students with tens of thousands in court costs for occupying. At the University of Ulster last week, management has been accused of cutting off occupiers’ water and electricity as they protested against plans toturn their common room into a corporate dining facility.

Commentators have been right to point towards the problem that demonstrations and strikes pose for university managers who seem to regard themselves as executives of large corporations selling education and employability. As our institutions are run more like businesses, with academia reduced to research competition and democratic processes such as elected academic boards eroded, the people who run universities are becoming unaccountable to those who make them function. That is why the most recent wave of protest has sprung to life not only under the banner of support for strikes, but that of “cops off campus“. The demand that police get off campuses is not just about defending civil liberties; it is also about what kind of education system we want – one in which disputes are resolved collectively, rather than with court injunctions and police batons.

What is happening in education matters, and not just because it is the place where many people first come into contact with political ideas. The higher and further education sectors have for years been at the forefront of opposing austerity – from the walkouts that followed the Millbank Tower occupation in 2010 and triggered action from the unions, to what seems to many like a renewal of dissent now.

The education sector is not yet comparable, either in its disruptive capacity or the level of repression it has faced, to those who carried out mass industrial disputes of the 1970s and 80s. But like other social movements, its experience fits a historical pattern of political policing being deployed against sectors of society that most resist the interests of the market. If students and workers in education can build a concerted revolt over privatisation and repression, we may well expose the contradictions in the government’s attempts to marketise universities and colleges, and push it back.


charles hugh smith-Why the Higher Education System Is Unsustainable (i.e. Doomed)

charles hugh smith-Why the Higher Education System Is Unsustainable (i.e. Doomed).


Canada University Costs Have Tripled Over Past 20 Years, Study Suggests

Canada University Costs Have Tripled Over Past 20 Years, Study Suggests.


Household Income: Canada’s Families See Years Of Stagnation, StatsCan Finds

Household Income: Canada’s Families See Years Of Stagnation, StatsCan Finds.


Student debt in Canada (info-graphic) – Imgur

Student debt in Canada (info-graphic) – Imgur.

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