Monday, January 26, 2015

Wainstein's Irresponsible Language

On Wainstein's Repeated Use of the Term Scheme

Guest blogger Don Brown is a former Navy JAG officer and the author of several military thrillers, including his latest Storming the Black Ice.

I was reading over the Wainstein Report, yet again, and, out of curiosity, decided to count the number of times Mr. W. and his trusty assistants used the term scheme throughout the report.

An easy search of the report will find that the term scheme is used at least 46 times. Let me repeat that: scheme is repeated 46 times in the Wainstein Report. That means in a 136-page report, the word pops up, on average, every 2.95 pages.

The word is always there. In the reader’s face. You can’t read far without seeing it.

Singularly, it is the most derogatory editorial repeated, over and over again, in this “report.”

In a less-than-subtle effort by Wainstein, the word is hammered home, over and over again. No doubt, Wainstein and company want that word out there, front and center, and they want the press to see it, over and over again.

Just get that word in the back of everybody’s mind, and everybody, including the mindless media, who will buy, hook-line-and-sinker, anything written by a “former federal prosecutor.”

“Ooh. Must be true, because a ‘former federal prosecutor’ said so,” say the mindless sycophants.

Sometimes the word scheme is used alone. But more often than not, it’s combined with the term paper class, to come up with “paper class scheme,” as if any class that requires a paper only—like most independent study courses—is somehow a scandal.

You know what takes the cake here about the repeated and reckless use of this word scheme? It’s Wainstein’s own admission, buried at footnote 12 of the report, that the term is “loaded.”

We read, straight from Mr. Wainstein’s own word processing program at footnote 12 of the report, the following:

We will use the term “scheme” throughout this report to refer to the operation of the paper classes. We recognize that “scheme” is a loaded term, but we use it here without any connotations simply as a concise way of referring to the collaboration between Crowder, Nyang’oro and certain ASPSA personnel to offer and make use of the AFAM paper classes.

Did you read that? Those are Wainstein’s own words—his own admission!

Wainstein recognizes that scheme is a “loaded” term, but claims he uses it “without any connotations”?

Come on! Without any connotations?

Do you really believe, Mr. Wainstein, that you are going to get away with using such a “loaded” term “without any connotations”?

You expect anyone who bothers to read your footnote to really believe that?

Give me a break.

Sorry, and in deference and with due respect to a $900-per-hour, distinguished “former federal prosecutor,” and his distinguished underling staff, but that explanation is just a bunch of horse hockey.

You deliberately pick one of the most loaded terms you can find, admit that it’s a “loaded” term, then use it over and over again, and claim that there are “no connotations” from using said “loaded” term, and claim, with a straight face, that it is simply as a "concise way of referring to the collaboration between Crowder, Nyang’oro and certain ASPSA personnel to offer and make use of the AFAM paper classes”?

Is Wainstein so dumb to think his repeated, loaded term isn’t going to slant or influence his report?

Is he so na├»ve to think that it isn’t going to take the media’s focus off actual fact-finding?

Is he living in such a fantasy land as to think the Dick Vitales and Fran Fraschillas of the world aren’t going to build mindless talking points and gasbag rants based on his deliberate and repeated use of a “loaded” term?

And we thought Wainstein’s role was pure and simple fact-finding?

Here’s a little hint.

True fact-finders don’t editorialize with loaded, explosive rhetoric, and then try and disclaim their editorializing in buried footnotes.

Let me help you out, Mr. W.

If you didn’t want to editorialize, if you really wanted to avoid connotations, if you did not want to set off a media firestorm to start a public narrative that has nothing to do with the real facts, there are a number of non-loaded phrases that you could have chosen. For example, you could have just as easily used "paper class arrangement" or "paper class procedures.”

Sorry, but the explanation at footnote 12 of why you chose that admittedly loaded term, scheme, as a “concise way of referring to the collaboration between Crowder, Nyang’oro and certain ASPSA personnel,” is simply not credible.

To drop this type of a loaded verbal bomb in this report, repeating it over and over again, knowing that such a “loaded” term will create connotations with the public which have nothing to do with fact-finding, proves conclusively, in my judgment, that this report is not fully about fact-finding at all, but, rather, influencing public opinion with a pre-determined goal in mind.

This type of irresponsible verbal bomb-dropping, repeatedly using a word that was, by Wainstein’s own admission, “loaded,” appears to have been deliberately calculated.

When this type of rhetorical tactic is used repeatedly throughout a public report, the author, deliberately and calculatingly assembling the report, should know full well that members of the media, and low-information members of the public, are going to latch onto such a “loaded” term, and such a “loaded” term will send misguided minds to predetermined conclusions of guilt, and throw gasoline on a media fire, and take the focus off the actual facts, or actual lack of facts.

That, in fact, appears to have happened.

This type of irresponsible language, fired with machine-gun repetition as happened here, using “loaded” language that will knowingly set off a firestorm, is not the tactic of a group seeking simply to lay out the facts.

This tactic, repeating a “loaded” term 46 times, appears to have been calculated for a deliberate purpose, and that purpose is not fact-finding.

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that, despite all the claims of the UNC Administration and the Wainstein group to “go wherever the facts lead us,” that this report, already noted to be chock-full of errors and omissions (just ask the Morehead-Cain Foundation and Wayne Walden), was written with a slant.

The more we read, the more we discover, more and more questions loom about the Wainstein Report, and its $3.1 million origins.

Those who love the University deserve an answer to this question:

Who is responsible for driving this slant, and why?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Emails Reveal Disputes Between Jay Smith and Other Faculty Members

Jay Smith's intellectual dishonesty began silently, when the debate over Mary Willingham's "research" was occurring.* However, especially since the Wainstein Report was released, his deviousness has become shrill and persistent, fomenting the media's sensationalism.

As the acting leader of the (Anti-) Athletics Reform Group, Smith's fundamental assertion regarding the paper-class scandal has been that "the demand for fraud in this case clearly came from 'the athletic side' of the campus" and was "set up" by Athletics. Yet that is not clear at all. Not even Wainstein's personal impressions support Smith's assertion. Wainstein surmised, "While Crowder cited compassion as her primary driver, there is no question that her strong love for and identification with the sports program contributed to her willingness to offer paper classes that were disproportionately taken by student-athletes" (p. 44). The key word is "contributed," which is not the same as induced or instigated or triggered. Wainstein quoted Crowder herself saying that she was "passionate about helping struggling students of all kinds," including single mothers (p. 14). The truth is that if UNC had not admitted underprepared student-athletes, Crowder still would have created the paper classes for other struggling students, and we probably would have never learned about those paper classes.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wainstein's Impressions and Lessons from Serial

"Rather than try to get to the truth, what you're trying to do is build your case and make it the strongest case possible." – Jim Trainum, former homicide detective

Millions of people around the world now believe Adnan Syed was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1999. Last fall, Syed's case captivated listeners and propelled Serial to becoming the most popular podcast in the world. Over the course of 12 episodes, host Sarah Koenig investigated the circumstances of Syed's conviction, the evidence for which seems alarmingly inconclusive. Yet the jury 16 years ago reached their verdict after only two hours of deliberation. Serial's first season is Koenig's attempt to understand how that happened.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Wainstein Report Exam

For the past three weeks, journalists and academic blowhards have run amok in reaction to the Wainstein Report. Brian Barbour and Michael Harris have documented the rancor on the national level, and earlier this week I wrote about the seething hypocrisy of UNC's (Anti-) Athletics Reform Group. Journalistic sensationalism is to be expected, but the intellectually dishonest bluster from some faculty members is unsettling. As historians, several of them surely teach their students to engage texts critically, but they themselves have eschewed their scholarly dispositions and selectively accepted aspects of the Wainstein Report without the slightest hint of critical reading.

For that reason, I have constructed an exam that I am proposing all UNC faculty members require themselves to pass before commenting on the Wainstein Report publicly. Misinformation hinders democratic participation because it undermines our ability to form sound opinions. Hodding Carter, Jay Smith, and Harry Watson have contributed to the spread of misinformation by pontificating on the implications of the Wainstein Report as if they had actually read it closely. I implore them and others to spare us their opinions unless they can pass this exam, which actually should not be difficult. I have made it very easy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Wainstein Report and the (Anti-) Athletics Reform Group

"I am encouraged by the overall support from the entire staff here at the Academic Center as well as across the campus. It is a pleasure to work in a learning community that supports the needs of students, and is willing to meet the challenges of this changing population." – Mary Willingham, 2007 Annual Report, Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes
"I never doubted you or that you helped students enormously and selflessly loved them and Carolina. The story of how our UNC athletic system worked/had to work and the dedicated people behind the scenes is nothing short of amazing. You played a role in it and you should be proud - our students (and staff) loved you [. . .]. The collegiate sport system (profit sport model) is messed up, not the people (well, maybe some of those guys in Indianapolis)." – Mary Willingham, email to former academic support staff member, September 4, 2013

Over the course of UNC's 221-year history, few people have left a legacy as moving as Fred Clark's. Widely known as a warmhearted teacher and a compassionate advisor, Clark served Carolina students for 47 years before he passed away in September. He was a Professor in the Romance Languages Department, and he served as the Associate Dean of Academic Services for several years. Nonetheless, the accomplishment of which he was proudest was coordinating the Carolina Covenant Scholars program for students from low-income families, a responsibility he maintained even after he retired. No one can question Clark's commitment to student well-being. He was a true educator and represented the best of higher education.

Several months ago, I heard from a UNC alum and former Covenant Scholar who was one of Clark's advisees. This proud graduate told me how Clark had helped him tremendously when he was a student struggling in school. One of Clark's recommendations was to take an AFAM paper class. So the student enrolled, wrote the paper, earned a good grade, eventually graduated, and has never felt anything but gratitude toward Clark.

In the Wainstein Report released two weeks ago, Clark's knowledge of the paper classes is confirmed:
Clark was aware of the AFAM paper classes at the time that they were offered; his understanding was that they were courses that required a long paper and did not require attendance. Clark explained that that professors do not question other professors’ courses, and so long as a department was offering a course, it was a legitimate course (p. 107).
Clark—who, remember, was an associate dean for several years—regularly recommended the paper classes to struggling students, but no one will dare question his integrity or the sincerity of his commitment to student well-being. Nor should they: he was an example for all faculty members, and we can only hope his legacy will inspire more to emulate him.

Yet if we employ the logic of the (Anti-) Athletics Reform Group (hereafter referred to as A-ARG), the Carolina Covenant program should be dissolved as a result of Clark's recommending the paper classes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mary Willingham's "Literacy before Legacy" Campaign

Today Mary Willingham launched "Literacy before Legacy," a campaign to raise $120,000 to establish a literacy program for middle school and high school athletes. Furthermore, she hopes to begin the program in January 2015, less than three months from now, though she has offered no details on how the program would be structured or who would be part of her "team of experts."

What qualifies Willingham to direct such a program?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Perils of Publicity, Indeed

One way or another, Jay Smith wants to get me. In April, he notified the Provost that I appeared mentally unstable. Today, Smith accused me of plagiarizing him.

In my latest essay, I titled one of the sections, "The Perils of Publicity." Originally, I titled it, "The Hazards of Publicity," but I later revised it when I realized I could make it more alliterative by substituting the word perils for hazards. The source of the idea was nothing more than my internal thesaurus.