SAT and UNC: The difference between real and fraud, part 1



Last May, the SAT exams in South Korea were cancelled. Yes, for the whole country, cancelled. Why? Because of allegations of cheating. So, 1600 Korean students are denied the chance to take the test because, possibly a few dozen, maybe even hundreds, might be cheating.

This is a sad thing because these students take their studies seriously. These students don’t just go to school to well on the SAT, they go to “cram schools” after school to study even more. I’m not convinced standardized tests really should be taken so seriously, but I still feel bad for the students who worked so hard (and for the parents of those students who paid extra for their children to study).

“The scores of all 900 students taking a version of the test were cancelled after it was discovered that some had previously seen a portion of the exam…”

There have been a few cheating scandals in the past, but considering the ridiculously high stakes involved, I can see that happening. What’s interesting here is how seriously ETS (the company responsible for seeing to the legitimacy of the SAT scores) takes allegations of cheating. The whiff of cheating means scores get cancelled.

So, while I believe standardized tests are wildly overrated, when a student tells me he’s done well on the test, at least I believe him.

It’s not so in college, where cheating is rampant, students can graduate after 6 years with nothing they didn’t already know from high school, and where degrees are almost all worthless now.

ETS, of course, has nothing to do with the legitimacy of college coursework, or degrees. At the college level, college administrators and accreditation determine that sort of thing. To be fair, accreditors no longer make any claim about legitimacy. To be truly fair, I should also note that accreditors haven’t told the Federal government that little detail about how they’ve changed. Since the Federal government doesn’t know this (I wish I could get some of them to read my blog…), the Federal government only gives student loan money to schools that have been legitimized by accreditation, accreditation that has nothing to do with college legitimacy.

The latest academic scandal in college to really hit home about how bad things are in higher education is the “paper classes” scandal at UNC. I’ve written about this before, but a quick summary: apparently, athletes, to boost their grades, would take exceptionally fake courses, and get fake grades.

Accreditation doesn’t care, of course, but the NCAA did care, since it looked like UNC was giving preferential treatment to athletes. The NCAA would shut down UNC’s athletic programs if these bogus courses really happened. UNC countered by saying it wasn’t any big deal, and, besides, the regular students were also taking these bogus courses. Since the fraud affected all academics, and not just athletics, UNC admin reasoned, the NCAA shouldn’t care. NCAA bought it, at least for a little while. Administrators threw all their academic programs under a bus rather than come clean about these courses.

Even with UNC administration saying all their academics were bogus, accreditation doesn’t care. Of course.

“In all, the report estimates, at least 3,100 students took the paper classes, but the figure \”very likely falls far short of the true number.\”

Anyway, after some investigation, it seems the bogus courses scandal was pretty big after all. To summarize, the fake classes scam had been running for 18 years, and affected a low estimate of over 3,000 students.

“Four employees have been fired…because of their roles…”

Administration at UNC has, for the last five years, been claiming that the fraud was just a small thing…but it ran for 18 years. Who here thinks only a handful of administrators really knew about the fraud? 18 years is long enough for a career…who thinks any of the fraudsters that retired in the last 18 years will be tracked down? UNC is being pretty vague on who got fired…no list of names or exact infractions. I’m sorry, but I suspect these are minor employees at best—otherwise their names would be in the media (you notice when bigwigs don’t show up for work!)–and I find it quite possible there were no firings at all, and this is a pure lie. Harsh cynicism on my part? Read on…

“ The report says that athletes in a wide range of sports were involved, and it notes a noticeable spike of enrollment of Olympic-sport athletes between 2003 and 2005….”

Absolutely, athletes were the primary beneficiary of the extensive institutional fraud at UNC, but the numbers involved do make it clear that quite a few students benefited from these exceptionally bogus courses. A few coaches have admitted they knew what was going on in the fake classes. The coaches didn’t say why they didn’t speak up, but I give them a pass: coaches are hired to win games, not oversee academic legitimacy. Coaches aren’t educators, and I can forgive a coach refusing to engage in behavior that runs counter to his or her job description.

On the other hand, administrators are supposedly hired to help the institution. That, instead, administrators have only the goal of achieving growth, and can destroy academic and professional integrity to do so, and in fact will be praised for such destruction if they achieve growth, I cannot give a pass.

\”The depth and breadth of the scheme — involving counselors, coaches, academic administrators, faculty, athletic administrators, etc. — eclipses any previous case,\” Gurney said.

On the other hand, who is supposed to oversee academic legitimacy? I’ve shown many times that faculty are helpless against the whims of administration, so it can’t be faculty. That leaves administration, and accreditation. Administration has long since abandoned any pretense of being about integrity.

What does SACs, the accrediting body for UNC say? Here we go:

\”UNC has to verify every degree they give all the time. We ask them to make sure all courses really are legitimate,\” Wheelan said. \”All we can do … is put them on sanction for lack of integrity.”

I remind the gentle reader that almost everything a school does to get accreditation is done through self-verification. UNC gets to say if they’re acting with integrity, and only the most egregious acts of fraud ever catch the notice of accreditation. I clarify: accreditation does not in any way say a school is legitimate. The school itself says it’s legitimate…but with administrative foxes watching the henhouse of the school, there’s simply no reason to believe the school.

As I’ve shown many times on this blog, accreditation is a complete joke. UNC will get a sanction, will have to say they won’t do it anymore. Because accreditation enforces nothing, doesn’t really have any means to enforce anything, can the gentle reader guess what will happen “if” UNC goes right back to offering paper classes?

Well, nothing. Maybe, after another 5 year investigation, accreditation will be forced to acknowledge, again, that UNC doesn’t have integrity, and send them another letter about it…and UNC can promise, again, to stop.

But UNC can just keep on doing it. Accreditation is a joke. There is no level of thievery, to lack of integrity, that is particularly relevant to accreditation.

There is no penalty, either. The administrators that ran for the fraud for the last 18 years will get to keep their huge pensions, will get to keep their massive salaries, will get to keep their jobs, except, maybe, for the 4 that UNC claims were fired, not the UNC will say who got fire or for why. Why am I the only one that is unwilling to blindly trust UNC on this. But, anyway, the penalty for this outrageous violating of accreditation is the same penalty for all other violations of accreditation: nothing.

“For five years, UNC has insisted the paper classes were the doing of one rogue professor: the department chair of the African-American studies program, Julius Nyang\’oro. Wainstein\’s report spread the blame much further…”

What? You mean UNC administration has been lying? Really? I’m shocked, shocked. Anyone want to bet that the Poo-Bah, Chancellors, Viceroys, and other high muckety-mucks will pay much of a price for this chicanery? Not much chance we can hope administration will oversee academic integrity when they behave like this.

We’ll talk more about the incredible, obvious, lies of administration next time.