So, last time around I went step by step through SACS accreditation procedures to see what it would take for SACS to even notice a direct, documented, extreme case of fraud like what was going on at UNC (and parallels of such fraud go on at many other institutions, I promise you).
After some 18 years, it’s now established beyond all doubt that UNC was engaging in widespread fraud, and now SACS, the organization that accredits UNC, and in the eyes of many, guarantees the legitimacy of education at UNC and other institutions of higher education, will slowly, reluctantly, try to do something about it.
You can go to jail for grade fixing. So what’s the penalty for this level of institutionalized fraud?
This week, a letter will be sent to UNC-CH officials informing them of the new probe, said Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges. The review will focus on the findings of the Oct. 22 Wainstein report, which revealed nearly two decades of academic fraud, including hundreds of fake independent studies and no-show classes in African and Afro-American Studies taken by more than 3,100 students. The scope of the academic misdeeds is unlike anything Wheelan said she’d seen.
First thing SACS will do is write UNC a letter.
A letter! Oh man, UNC must be a’quaking.
This letter will let them know that SACS is coming to take a closer look. While this might sound scary, the gentle reader needs to realize that the purpose of this letter is to give UNC the time it needs to set up a Potemkin school, one that looks all nice and legit. Having been at a few schools that set up Potemkin classrooms for accreditors, I know this part of the game.
SACS’ Poo-Bah says the scope of the fraud is unlike anything she’d seen before, but the gentle reader needs to also realize, SACS’ complaint and investigation policies are set up so that it’s all but impossible for SACS to see any widespread fraud, as my previous post discussed in some detail.
Against all odds, the fraud at UNC has at last been revealed.
What of the penalty for such fraud? In every other business that is regulated, gross violations of the rules results in some sort of penalty. What’s the price for the last 18 years of fraud?
So far, basically nothing:
The board found deficiencies in UNC-CH’s compliance with its standards for academic policies, student services, student records and class credit hours. It required UNC-CH to offer students and graduates, at no cost, courses to make up for the phony classes. No graduates returned for the classes, but about a dozen students took another course, because the AFAM courses in question could not count toward a diploma.
So, the penalty for giving fake classes was…offer legit classes, legitimacy determined by UNC (!!!). Of the THOUSANDS of students that were involved over the course of 18 years, “about a dozen” decided to take another course. No graduates, of course, as they’re long gone with their bogus degrees…I’m sure legitimate alumni feel great about that. Or am I making a bad assumption about there being legitimate alumni?
A few students still on campus did take another course. Not in the African Studies department, naturally, since everyone knows that department’s “coursework” is worthless. I really feel the need to point out that African Studies is not by any means the only department offering widespread bogus courses (hi, Education department!). Keep in mind, the students that took bogus courses in AFAM almost certainly just moved on to taking a bogus course in a different department. Anyone with half a brain would ask what those students took, and what their majors are, but I digress.
But…wait a minute here. That’s not how penalties for criminal behavior work anywhere else. I mean, if I rob a bank, the penalty I pay when I’m caught isn’t simply “return every dollar”, right? If I claim I’m selling diamonds and charge for diamonds, but I’m actually selling glass, and I’m caught after 18 years of such fraud, my penalty isn’t going to be “you’ll have to give a few of them another piece of glass.”
Heck, UNC doesn’t even have to return the tuition money it stole, money mostly stolen from taxpayers. Instead, they just had to offer the robbed students a chance to take some other bogus coursework.
Believe you me, the Poo-Bahs at other institutions are looking at this and breathing a sigh of relief…they know when and if the fraud going on at their institutions is ever caught, their slap on the wrist will feel more like a kiss.
I often trash higher education administrators for their utter lack of integrity, and the shamelessness in which they exploit our children and our Federal government’s student loan scam. I acknowledge that I’ve actually met a Poo-Bah with integrity, and there are certainly a few around:
The revelations prompted the president of Macalester College in Minnesota to pen an Op-Ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education calling for the suspension of UNC-CH’s accreditation. Accreditation is vital because it’s required for universities to receive federal funding; colleges that have lost accreditation have gone out of business.
“Any accrediting agency that would overlook a violation of this magnitude would both delegitimize itself and appear hopelessly hypocritical if it attempted, now or in the future, to threaten or sanction institutions – generally those with much less wealth and influence – for violations much smaller in scale,” Macalester President Brian Rosenberg wrote. “If falsified grades and transcripts for more than 3,000 students over more than a decade are viewed as anything other than an egregious violation of those standards, my response to the whole accreditation process is simple: Why bother?”
President Rosenberg (I refer to him as President rather than Poo-Bah because he’s actually worthy of a real title) makes an extremely valid point, albeit one I’ve made in my blog many times. If accreditation in no way assures even the slightest level of legitimacy of an institution, what’s accreditation for? Why BOTHER with it? UNC engaged in creating fraudulent courses and transcripts for 18 years, and the best penalty accreditation can come up with is “you’re gonna have to do something less openly fraudulent.”
Imagine if, instead, as President Rosenberg advises, SACS removed accreditation from UNC as a result of UNC’s systemic, long running, fraud. That would send a real message to higher education that it would be time to put some integrity back into the system.
I really should point out that President Rosenberg is most extraordinary in having such integrity:
UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt said she had talked with about two dozen presidents of major universities, none of whom suggested such an outcome.
“I actually think that was a pretty outrageous assertion from a president,” Folt said.
The gentle reader should take note here: the Poo-Bah of UNC admits only 1 out of 26 Poo-Bahs in higher education has even a shred of integrity, and is shameless about it. Seriously, it’s “outrageous” to think there should be a severe penalty for this level of fraud? I again come back to President Rosenberg’s point: if widespread, open, fraud, over the course of 18 years doesn’t even risk the loss of accreditation, what would?
Again, why bother with accreditation if it’s completely meaningless?
Yes, this question has been asked before of other fraudulent institutions. It will keep getting asked as fraud after fraud is revealed in higher education. I promise you, many institutions have systems very comparable to UNC.
Next time, I’ll look at the current cover-up by UNC, and more accreditation practices.