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UNC Releases Report on Academic Support

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In the wake of the NCAA investigation into improper benefits which ballooned into a probe into academic support, UNC has released a series of recommendations to keep this crap from ever happening again or something like that. ACC Now has a rundown of the report which includes hiring more staff such as a full time tutor coordinator.

In addition, the report said that academic mentors, who assist athletes with the development of study and time management skills, should be graduate students, part-time staff members, or others such as retired faculty members. The current program relies primarily on undergraduate students studying education as a major.

The report also suggested that tutors should be people with relevant experience, such as graduate students, retired university faculty and public school teachers, who would undergo consistent professional development.

UNC’s academic support program came under scrutiny after an NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits from agents also uncovered improper academic assistance provided by Jennifer Wiley. She was an undergraduate student who also worked for former Tar Heels football coach Butch Davis as a tutor for his son.

Senior associate athletic director John Blanchard and College of Arts and Sciences senior associate dean Bobbi Owen led the strategic planning process in the wake of the investigation.

The committee’s report calls upon the academic support program to:
•    Collaborate with other units providing academic support at UNC.
•    Revitalize the faculty advisory committee.
•    Conduct annual assessments of the program.
•    Develop a vision shared by staff, coaches, administrators and athletes.

The report also calls for the academic support program to continue providing advice about the ability of prospective recruits to succeed academically at UNC.

One of the more important take aways from this is the recommendation to hire tutors who are not basically peers with the athletes they are supposed to be helping. The basic concern UNC is addressing here is having undergrads tutoring other undergrads might lead to lines being blurred. Well, there is no "might" about it. Clearly, in the case of Jennifer Wiley, the lines did get blurred leading to a whole mess we would all rather not go through again. I think it is also a smart move to use individuals who are more experienced or specialized in certain areas which grad students are generally speaking. Since you are dealing with 18-22 year olds, giving them tutors they can relate to is beneficial and the age difference matters in that respect. However you also want tutors to be qualified which is easier to do if you are hiring grad students or above.

The rest of the recommendations are standard fare for this report. They need to refine processes, do assessments, develop a vision, yada, yada, yada. You know all that stuff organizations do to make it look like they are doing something. Which is not to say there is not some purpose served in this but the real meat in this from a standpoint of reform is how the tutors are being managed and who those tutors are. UNC is obviously taking the appropriate steps to address the issues that cropped up, not that ABCers will acknowledge that.

As for UNC's response to the notice of allegations, this report will undoubtedly be part of it. According to the 90-day timetable, UNC should have its response ready some time in the next 10 days.