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.

Update (November 20): I emailed scores to everyone who took the exam, but, due to an error I made with the Google app I used, a few questions were graded incorrectly. The correct answers are below. Congratulations to those of you who correctly answered at least 30 of the 35 regular questions. Those of you who failed, please do society a favor by refraining from speaking about the UNC paper-class scandal until you can offer an informed perspective. If you suspect you failed because you struggled with the letters and sounds that make up the words of the Wainstein Report, please consider hiring an unemployed reading specialist to tutor you.

1. What were the "paper classes" at the center of the UNC scandal that Kenneth Wainstein investigated?

Answer: Classes that were conducted by a department student services manager and for which students had no interaction with a faculty member but were required to submit a lengthy research paper that was graded leniently (Wainstein, p. 1)

2. In which department were the paper classes offered?

Answer: African and Afro-American Studies (p.1)

3. Who was the person who conducted the paper classes?

Answer: Deborah Crowder (p. 1)

4. Who was the department chair?

Answer: Julius Nyang'oro (p. 1)

5. When were the paper classes offered?

Answer: 1993 - 2011 (p. 3)

6. What was the primary reason the paper classes were offered?

Answer: The person conducting the paper classes was "passionate about helping struggling students of all kinds" (p. 14).

7. What percentage of enrollments in the paper classes were athletes?

Answer: 47.4% (p. 3)

8. A previous investigation identified a similar percentage of athlete enrollments and revealed that the percentage was consistent with other cluster groupings of classes that fit conveniently into athletes' schedules. The Wainstein Report also provides that context so that readers can develop a comprehensive understanding of athletes' experience scheduling classes.

Answer: false

9. Which students received grades or grade changes for paper classes without completing any work?

Answer: No students: Wainstein found "abundant evidence" that grades were only awarded after students submitted their papers (p. 39).

10. Which administrators and staff outside of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) and Athletics had at least some knowledge of the paper classes?

Answer: An advisor, an assistant dean, and an associate dean in the Steele Building, coordinators in the Carolina Covenant and the Moorehead-Cain programs, and the Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Bobbie Owen (p. 68)

11. When did Owen learn that Nyang'oro was the instructor of record for more than 300 independent studies in a single year?

Answer: 2005 or 2006 (p. 21)

12. What was Owen's response when she learned about the impossible number of independent studies listed for Nyang'oro?

Answer: She merely directed him to reduce the numbers (p. 21).

13. What concerns regarding Nyang'oro did Associate Dean Carolyn Cannon bring to Owen's attention?

Answer: An inordinate number of grade changes were occurring in his department, and there were discrepancies between signatures on the grade forms (p. 69).

14. What was Owen's response to Cannon's concerns?

Answer: She merely directed Nyang'oro to submit an exemplar of his signature (p. 69).

15. Who approached Owen with questions about the propriety of the paper classes?

Answer: Senior Associate Athletics Director John Blanchard (p. 104)

16. What was Owen's response to questions about the propriety of the paper classes?

Answer: She explained that professors can teach however they choose to teach (p. 104).

17. What prompted UNC to retain Wainstein to investigate the paper classes?

Answer: Deborah Crowder's willingness to speak about the paper classes for the first time (p. 2)

18. In Fall 2011, Dean Karen Gill charged Senior Associate Deans Jonathan Hartlyn and William Andrews to investigate the paper classes. Shortly thereafter, Gill charged Owen to lead a task force to examine the use of independent studies. For both reports, each released on May 2, 2012, Owen revealed what she knew about the paper classes.

Answer: false

19. In an email sent to Blanchard on July 20, 2006, what reasons did ASPSA Director Robert Mercer give for not feeling compelled to question the paper classes further?

Answer: Athletics does not have authority to challenge classes available to all students, and "time is better spent working with faculty and administration to ensure our student-athletes are having a quality educational experience (learning, improving skills, preparing for whatever comes after college)."

20. How did ASPSA counselor Jaimie Lee perceive the paper classes?

Answer: As an "opportunity to work on the building blocks of a research paper, such as how to write a thesis statement, how to create an abstract, how to conduct research, and ultimately, how to do critical analysis" (p. 119)

21. How did ASPSA counselor Wayne Walden perceive the paper classes?

Answer: "Walden was aware of the paper classes and thought they had been approved by the University because they were open to all students. Walden said that he tried to limit the number of enrollments in the paper classes for the students [Coach] Williams recruited. He explained that he wanted to avoid developing a culture that depended on these classes, preferring the structure of a regular lecture course" (p. 122).

22. How many years after the paper classes started did ASPSA counselor Brent Blanton begin working at UNC?

Answer: 12 (p. 117)

23. How many years after the paper classes started did ASPSA counselor Beth Bridger begin working at UNC?

Answer: 13 (p. 118)

24. How many years after the paper classes started did Lee begin working at UNC?

Answer: 13 (p. 119)

25. How many years after the paper classes started did ASPSA counselor Walden begin working at UNC?

Answer: 10 (p. 122)

26. What part-time counselor and respected figure regularly referred athletes to the paper classes, giving other counselors the impression the paper classes were legitimate?

Answer: Director of the Parr Center for Ethics and eventual Chair of the Faculty Council Jan Boxill

27. On p. 4, Wainstein states that "several" ASPSA tutors provided impermissible assistance to athletes with paper-class papers. How many is "several"?

Answer: 3 (p. 56)

28. On p. 39, Wainstein states that two counselors at times contacted Crowder and Nyang'oro to "request" certain grades for athletes, but on p. 67 he states that those two counselors only "suggested" grades for athletes. Regardless of the discrepancy, which two counselors were they?

Answer: Boxill and Cynthia Reynolds

29. On p. 42, Wainstein quotes an email from an ASPSA staff member who jested that paper-class papers were more like middle school reports than college papers. Wainstein then writes, "This one comment speaks volumes about the low expectations placed on the players." What do the actual volumes of tutor summary forms reveal about ASPSA's approach to tutoring athletes in the paper classes?

Answer: That ASPA staff collectively and earnestly attempted to teach athletes the "building blocks of a research paper, such as how to write a thesis statement, how to create an abstract, how to conduct research, and ultimately, how to do critical analysis" (p. 119)

30. On p. 67, Wainstein states that "counselors often steered players toward AFAM majors." What evidence does he provide to support that claim?

Answer: Little more than a football recruiting presentation in which AFAM is listed with thee other majors, though the football team never had more than 15% of players majoring in AFAM in any given year

31. Between 1999 and 2011, there were 963 enrollments of football players in the paper classes. How many football players did Wainstein interview to learn about football players' experiences enrolling in paper classes?

Answer: 4 (p. 47)

32. During the two years following Crowder's retirement, how many paper classes did Nyang'oro offer?

Answer: 6 (p. 23)

33. On p. 2, Wainstein states that Nyang'oro offered those six classes after Crowder's retirement "at the request of ASPSA football counselors." On p. 4, Wainstein states that those football counselors "undertook an effort to persuade Nyang'oro to continue the paper classes." On p. 23, Wainstein states that Lee "lobbied Nyang'oro to offer certain paper classes." On p. 44, Wainstein contends there was a "demonstrably concerted effort by the counselors to have Lee persuade Nyang'oro to continue the [paper] classes after Crowder's retirement, an effort that is clearly laid out in the email traffic between them." What does that email traffic actually reveal?

Answer: A few instances in which Lee requests a meeting with Nyang'oro to drop off students' papers (which were often in sealed envelopes from the students) and one instance in which she asks whether a paper class he offered the summer before will be offered again the following summer

34. On p. 23, Wainstein states that Bridger "seized" on the idea of Lee's establishing a relationship with Nyang'oro, insinuating that establishing a professional relationship with a professor was out of the ordinary for the counselors. How does Wainstein support his insinuation?

Answer: He provides no evidence and excludes the fact that Bridger and Lee went out of their way to establish professional relationships with faculty members across campus so that the faculty members would feel comfortable contacting Bridger or Lee in case any football players were not doing well or causing problems in class.

35. On p. 64, Wainstein contends that Reynolds, Bridger, and Lee were "aware of every irregular aspect of these paper classes." What evidence does he provide to demonstrate that Bridger and Lee were aware Crowder was conducting the paper classes without Nyang'oro's approval and supervision?

Answer: No evidence. On the contrary, as Wainstein later elucidated, "When asked whether they ever questioned the propriety of facilitating and encouraging the use of these classes, the ASPSA counselors explained that they simply relied on the fact that the classes were seemingly sanctioned by the faculty, or at least the AFAM faculty. They believed it was not their place to question the integrity of classes that the faculty deemed appropriate to list on the course register, especially given that they were open to and taken by non-athletes as well as student-athletes" (p. 67). Furthermore, in Bridger's first semester on the job as a learning specialist, Reynolds told her a professor ran the paper classes (p. 118).

Bonus Questions

1. After Wainstein released his Report, whose writing did he describe as "incredibly thorough" and as playing "a large role in keeping a focus on the issues, on asking the difficult questions, often the non-obvious questions that were lurking in the body of public knowledge but others weren’t really focused on"?

Answer: Dan Kane

2. During an interview on PBS a few days following the release of the Report, Wainstein stated that the paper classes weren't "detected at the higher levels of the administration." Did the Report actually confirm that assertion?

Answer: No, an assistant dean, two associate deans, and Senior Associate Dean Bobbie Owen had at least some knowledge of the paper classes, and Owen had more than enough knowledge--and the authority--to intervene

3. The Wainstein Report does reveal administrative blindspots in the College of Arts & Sciences that allowed the paper classes to go undetected by the College Deans and that reflect poorly on the Deans' supervision. Which former Dean signed the letter approving Nyang'oro's last re-appointment, in 2007, and yet, despite her administrative incompetence, had the audacity to write a letter to the DTH editor two weeks after the Wainstein Report to criticize the Faculty Athletics Committee?

Answer: Madeline Levine

4. At the Faculty Council meeting the week following the Wainstein Report, which faculty member characterized the University's treatment of Mary Willingham as "Go away, you miserable little bitch"?

Answer: Hodding Carter

5. At the same Faculty Council meeting, which faculty member called for the Athletics Department to vacate championships and for ASPSA to be dissolved?

Answer: Harry Watson

Extra Bonus Questions

The following answers are facetious.

1. How much money is Rashad McCants receiving as reparation for UNC's forcing him into the prison otherwise known as paper classes?

Answer: $310 million

2. Has Jay Smith ever been guilty of plagiarism?

Answer: Yes, in an email he sent to Bradley Bethel on April 1, 2014, he used the phrase "How dare you" without properly citing it.

3. What is Jay Smith's area of expertise?

Answer: All of the above (18th-century French monsters; literacy assessment; psychological disorders, specifically mental instability)

4. How many female athletes would you have in a study if your sample included 9 women's basketball players and 4 women's volleyball players?

Answer: Although conventional arithmetic suggests the answer is 13, Mary Willingham, in a groundbreaking presentation at the 2013 College Sport Research Institute Conference, demonstrated that 9 women's basketball players plus 4 women's volleyball players actually equals only 10 female athletes.

5. What is the most effective defense against an accusation of plagiarism?

Answer: "Whatever I did, I did, and, you know, whatever."