UNC academic scandal will not fix itself

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Despite internal investigations and major changes in coaching and university administrative positions, the University of North Carolina-Chapel HIll academic-sports scandal shows little sign of going away.

New reports allege that more than half of UNC athletes considered at-risk cannot read or write at a college level. Other studies show that only a little more than half of UNC football players graduate within six years of entering school as freshmen.

The academic scandal has swirled around “paper-only” classes attended in large part by UNC athletes. The classes rarely met, and grades often depended on a single paper required by the end of the course.

Much of the concern raised by such practices has stayed in North Carolina, where The (Raleigh) News & Observer has continued to ask questions about academic standards at the state’s self-described “flagship university.”

But now major media outlets including CNN and The New York Times have begun to scrutinize the UNC academic story. There’s little question that investigations at major football universities elsewhere likely would uncover similar failings. But the story at UNC is particularly gnawing, especially considering the reputation the university had built for itself both inside and outside the athletic arena under former basketball coach Dean Smith.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt has been in office for less than a year and can hardly be blamed for the institutional failures she inherited. But returning the university’s mission to what was once called “the Carolina way” and restoring its reputation should be her first priority.

The students, faculty and alumni of UNC-Chapel Hill deserve nothing less.