A business person I know recently found out that a couple of his employees were stealing from him. It was petty theft and he never would have detected it, except one of them bragged about it to another employee. One thing led to another and he was informed by a loyal employee of what was happening. He fired the thieves and that was the end of it. It was not the first time and it will not be the last time. Every business has policies and procedures in place to handle theft.
If you talk to cops, they will tell you that they solve most crimes with a lot of help from the criminals. The crooks leave physical evidence that is easy to trace. They brag about their exploits to friends. These days, they post about their crimes on Facebook and Twitter, which is amusing at a certain level. There’s something about humans that leads them to give themselves away when they are breaking the rules.
The point I’m leading up to is the recent report on the North Carolina academic scandal is based on assumptions that contradict the human condition. The official story does not comport with what we know about people breaking the rules. For instance, former UNC Athletic Director and current ACC Commissioner, John Swofford, claims he was wholly unaware of what was going on all around him.
John Swofford, the ACC commissioner, said that during his final years at North Carolina he saw no warning signs, sensed no red flags, about bogus independent studies courses that for nearly two decades inflated athletes’ GPAs and helped keep them eligible.
Swofford, who spoke Wednesday at the ACC’s annual basketball media day, was the athletic director at UNC from 1980 through 1997, when he left to become the ACC commissioner. By the time he left, a long-running “paper class scheme,” as it has been described recently, had been ongoing for four years.
Kenneth Wainstein, a former U.S. Justice Department official, last week announced the results of his months-long investigation into suspect courses in UNC’s African- and Afro-American Studies Department. Wainstein concluded that, from 1993-2011, 3,100 hundred students — nearly half of them athletes — passed through bogus paper classes in AFAM.
Among the athletes who were enrolled in the classes, which had no professor oversight, nearly half were football and men’s basketball players. Overall, athletes received higher grades in the courses than non-athletes — often As and Bs for papers that were found to have been heavily plagiarized.
Asked Wednesday if he sensed “any red flags” about the AFAM courses during his final years at UNC, Swofford said, “I don’t think so.”
“I think if you look at (the Wainstein) report there, in my last few years there, there were some, in terms of numbers, very relatively minimal, independent study classes and AFAM,” Swofford said. “But that really took off in about 2000.
“So it never came up while I was there as an issue from any source. If it had, obviously, we would have addressed that with the appropriate people. But it never arose as any issue at all.”
When Swofford was UNC’s athletic director, the academic support program for athletes was, for a time, housed within the athletic department. He changed that, though, and moved the academic support program — formerly called the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes — to the College of Arts and Sciences, where it has remained.
Now, I suppose it is possible that not a single student talked to anyone about the fake classes. It’s possible the adults running the scam said nothing. I suppose no one at the school ever wondered why so many athletes were taking and acing these classes. All of that could be true, but is so unlikely that it borders on the laughable. In all these years not a single person bragged? Blabbed? Accidentally let slip with something?
According to the report, this was a miraculous crime spree. For almost two decades, a handful of low-level flunkies and one professor orchestrated an elaborate fraud without anyone in charge ever noticing. They were so good, they were able to elude detection by dozens of coaches, several directors and a couple of presidents. Not only does this contradict common everyday experience, it is one of the all-time great crimes.
That’s all nonsense, of course. What we are seeing is another example the how we no longer punish the people in charge. The report was commissioned so the people in charge of the school could pretend to be doing the right thing, while not actually blaming anyone who was in charge at the time. Instead, it is some low-level flunkies left holding the bag. Much like how Janet Reno “took responsibility” for killing all of those people at Waco, being responsible means never having to answer for your actions.
It is the problem that plagues our age. The people in charge have no respect for the rules, they don’t abide by them and they never face any consequences for breaking the rules. Walter Russell Mead calls what happened at UNC a moral collapse. That true, but it misses the larger issue. The UNC scandal is emblematic of what has happened to American society. The utter and complete moral collapse of the ruling class has reduced to a transactional society run by sociopaths.