Mary Willingham Goes Under the UNC Athletics Bus

WRAL is reporting today (with no byline) that Mary Willingham, the academic advisor for the UNC football team players, will leave UNC-CH after her teaching assignments are wrapped up for the semester.  The report, HERE, also said that:

Willingham was the subject of national media attention after she questioned the literacy level of athletes who were admitted to the school.  She said that most of the 183 basketball and football players she reviewed from 2004 to 2012 read at an eighth-grade level or below.

In a separate article by Sara Ganim on CNN about ten days ago, these excerpts:

The University of North Carolina says that three independent experts in the field of adult literacy have finished a university-commissioned review of whistleblower Mary Willingham’s research and found flaws in her claims that some athletes were reading at elementary-school levels.

Willingham’s research, described to CNN in January, was based on a sampling of about 180 student-athletes who Willingham personally worked with over an eight-year period.

Each had taken a 25-question reading vocabulary test on the Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA) — an aptitude test used by many universities to gauge the learning level of incoming students.

Without actually naming her, UNC released a summary report that implied she incorrectly deduced that 60% of the sample were reading below a high school level, and that 8% were reading below a fourth-grade level.  “Outside experts found no evidence to support public claims about widespread low literacy levels,” UNC said in a statement.

Well, I dunno, there was this …


The CNN article, HERE, goes on to say that:

Willingham and her research were disavowed by the university almost immediately …


On Friday, Willingham said she was “disappointed” by the report …  “The fact that they engaged in this exercise without ever seeking input from me or my research partner, and without the raw scores, or an examination of the full battery of tests … speaks volumes about the true motivations behind today’s press release,” she wrote in a statement.  “UNC personnel with the knowledge and expertise to verify my claims continue to remain and/or are being forced to remain silent.”

And on another matter involving student athletes in the UNC system:

Since the CNN report aired, UNC has asked for a new investigation into the yearslong “paper class” scandal, in which student-athletes allegedly were taking classes in which the only requirement was completing a single paper.

Attorney Kenneth Wainstein, who had worked at the U.S. Justice Department for 19 years, is reviewing whether it was widely known among staff in athletics that student-athletes were sent to no-show classes where little or no work was required.

CNN first reported this week that California Rep. Tony Cardenas is also demanding the NCAA answer questions on why UNC was never sanctioned for having paper classes.

Willingham told CNN that the paper classes were widely known and talked about in athletics, where she worked for seven years.  She also said the paper classes were used to keep eligible some of the student-athletes who were reading at low levels.