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‘Stop Publicly Debating Struggling Athletes’

By Ran Northam Posted May 29, 2014 at 7:26 am

UNC students participating in revenue-generating sports have been thrown under the microscope and the quality of the education they are receiving has been called into question. Carolina’s Faculty Chair-elect, Bruce Cairns, says the conversation has gone down the wrong path.

“The ones that are struggling, we shouldn’t be personally debating them out in public like this,” Dr. Cairns says. “We should be figuring out a way to support them.”

Those comments were made during a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

***Listen to Part 3***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Dr. Cairns is the Jaycee Burn Center director and John Stackhouse Distinguished Professor of Surgery. He was recently elected as chair of the faculty at UNC and will take over from Jan Boxill at the start of the new academic year on July 1. The faculty chair position holds a three-year term.

The public debates increased when academic advisor Mary Willingham blew the whistle on research she conducted in which she says she found 60 percent of a sample of athletes at UNC read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. The sample was 176 athletes chosen from 2004-2012.

The way in which Willingham got the data has also been questioned as she has been accused receiving the names of the athletes along with the test scores. When she applied for her research, she said she would not be receiving identifiable information with the tests and that they would be coded. However, she says the reason she knows who the struggling athletes at UNC were is because they were her students, not because she saw names on the test scores.

UNC has conducted a number of internal investigations to see where corrections need to be made. A number of external investigations have also been conducted, both by the request of UNC and not, to find the flaws.

Outside Experts’ Review of Mary Willingham’s Research

Kenneth Wainstein

Dr. Cairns says he believes there’s one clear-cut way to prevent future problems.

“As we move forward, what we have to stand for is academic integrity, as opposed to (being) against something, whether it’s athletics or performing arts or something else,” Dr. Cairns says. “If we stand for our academic integrity and then we stand for making sure we have policies and procedures in place to ensure that that happens, then people can have confidence that we’re doing what we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

The WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner featuring Dr. Bruce Cairns will air Saturday and Sunday at 12:00 noon on 97.9 FM, 1360 AM, and streaming here.

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