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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Shine a light on shadow classes

    The student-athlete conspiracy is a ridiculous-sounding scheme in which players are led by the hand through college so that they can participate in sports. The unfortunate truth, though, is that the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill has been doing this for almost two decades.

    Since 1993, over 3,100 students at UNC, half of whom were football or basketball players, have been enrolled in classes that gave them easy “A’s” and “B’s” according to The Huffington Post.

    According to U.S. News, this “shadow curriculum” offered lecture classes that students did not need to show up for and “paper classes” where students were only required to turn in a final research paper. 

    An ESPN report released an image of one of these papers. It was written by a student-athlete and received an “A-” from the professor, despite sounding like it was written by a 9-year-old and being one 150-word paragraph.

    To make a comparison, this article is already 10 words longer than that of the UNC athlete, and it’s nowhere near done.

    These programs were originally created by now-retired office administrator Deborah Crowder and former African and Afro-American studies department chair Julius Nyang’oro, according to U.S. News. Crowder said she started this because she felt sympathetic toward the struggling athletes.

    I feel just as much sympathy towards these students as I do for a school not getting investors and donors because of its student-athlete graduation rate. UNCs solution to this problem of failing athletes: put them in easy classes and give them a fake education.

    Reports from both CNN and U.S. News say that academic advisers purposefully put student-athletes in these classes to keep them eligible to play, and nearly 30 UNC staffers and administrators were aware of this.

    It’s a disgrace that, of all these employees in the know, only one tried to bring attention to the scandal.
    Former UNC employee Mary Wilingham has been attempting to reveal these fake classes since 2011.

    According to CNN, the school has been fighting Wilingham on these claims and even demoted her in 2013, giving her more busy work. This year, the university verbally attacked her after CNN featured a story she did about the literacy rates of college athletes nationwide.

    Back in May, Willingham quit and is currently suing to regain her original position at the school, which has recently been brought back to light because of former UNC student athlete Mike McAdoo, one of the first student-athletes discovered to be part of a “paper class.”

    Originally, McAdoo wanted to study criminal justice, but advisors told him he had to pick between three majors that would work with his football schedule. His pre-determined schedule included paper classes. McAdoo wasn’t considered a student when he went to UNC; he was a body, an athlete the school used to its advantage.

    In 2011, he lost his eligibility to play on the account of receiving too much help with writing a paper. McAdoo is currently suing the school for failing to provide him with the education he was promised.

    McAdoo is only one of thousands of students who lost out on an education for the sake of sports. Although McAdoo realizes that he was cheated, other student-athletes have gone through the classes and accepted the system as if it was OK.

    But it isn’t OK.

    The idea of the college athlete conspiracy in general is disturbing, but the fact that it’s been put into motion and has stayed in motion for almost two decades is repulsive. It’s repulsive that a college, a place of education, prided brawn over brains enough to create fake academics to ensure their players stayed in play.


    Ashleigh Horowitz is a freshman studying creative writing and SISTA. Follow her on Twitter.

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