What qualifies Willingham to direct such a program?
First, as the feature subject of a CNN story in January, Willingham reported grossly inflated statistics on the reading levels of the college athletes she studied at UNC. Although she claimed that approximately 70% of her sample read below a high school level, three experts independently verified that her data were insufficient to make such a claim. In actuality, less than 7% of her sample scored below a high school level on a vocabulary assessment, and Willingham apparently employed unsound methods to arrive at her findings.
Second, Willingham publicly misrepresented the purpose of her study and violated basic research ethics when she conducted the study. Although she claimed she had informed the IRB that she would be collecting primary data, her research application revealed otherwise. Moreover, during the last three years of her study, she no longer worked with the college athletes she was studying, and so she had no right to access their federally protected educational and health information without their consent. Yet access that information she did, and she even tweeted about it in April:
'05' UNC basketball champs starting 5 +1 took a combined 69 paper classes. truth=transcripts=transparency. A real education= #ncaareform
— Mary Willingham (@paperclassinc) April 7, 2014
Third, Willingham plagiarized parts of her master's thesis. Ironically, she wrote her thesis during the same time she claims to have become concerned about the "cut-and-paste" papers athletes were writing at UNC. Of course, she was also supposed to be helping those athletes learn how to summarize, paraphrase, and quote with proper attributions. Apparently, she herself needed tutoring in proper citation practices.
In summary: Willingham is qualified to direct a literacy program for athletes because she (1) lacks sufficient knowledge of educational assessment but presents herself to national media outlets as an expert, (2) violates basic research ethics regarding subjects' privacy, and (3) foregoes or overlooks citation standards when attempting to compose scholarly texts.
Considering her qualifications, I am sure she will exceed her goal of $120,000. I would love to contribute, but, unfortunately, I am broke. The payments Pack Pride alleges I am receiving from UNC's PR department have not come in yet. Maybe after the Wainstein Report.