Retired Professors Letter on Athletics, Academics

Following is the text of the letter signed by 32 retired UNC faculty members:

Of all the questions surrounding the long-running academic-athletic scandal on the Chapel Hill campus, one of the most perplexing and troubling concerns the faculty. Professors, whatever their discipline, are above all else committed to the pursuit of knowledge and to the educational development of the students in their charge. Yet on an issue touching on both these fundamental commitments the UNC faculty has with a few striking exceptions been silent and as a collective, altogether missing in action. How did a single faculty member in a single department so grossly violate fundamental professional standards for so long? In what context did this violation occur, and how widely in other departments might similar breaking or bending the rules have happened? To what degree and how detrimentally have athletes in revenue sports been exploited, and in what ways have they been neglected or betrayed as students?

The failure to confront these questions suggests a faculty that has abdicated its responsibilities.

Two chancellors have sought in their decisions and public statements to defend the reputation of the university or at least minimize the damage while turning their backs on the issues related to the integrity of UNC as an educational institution in the service of the state. This course, guided by familiar public relations stratagems, has been too clever by half. UNC’s reputation is now in tatters and integrity more deeply in doubt than ever. South Building and the Board of Trustees seem locked in a self-defeating course and unable to find an alternative path. The recent presentation to the trustees by several accomplished student-athletes, whose work as students has not been impugned, was one more embarrassing exercise in avoiding the heart of the issue.

All of the signatories of this statement are retired faculty who feel a right and an obligation to speak out. Our professional experience and our record of service to the university over decades are considerable. This record gives us more than enough standing to express our genuine puzzlement and deep concern.

There is a way forward out of faculty passivity and fatalism. In a university run from the top down, departments remain a redoubt of faculty governance and discussion. Departmental meetings offer a logical place to begin a conversation about a fresh approach in which institutional integrity gets the priority it deserves. Department chairs or other departmental representatives can help broaden the conversation by creating a web of communications essential to convening a larger forum.

This need not involve an unwieldy university-wide gathering and should be independent of Faculty Council. This scandal is particular to the College of Arts and Sciences. The department at the center of controversy is in the college. So too are the students whose educational standing and experience bear examination. Those who teach within the college are the ones on whom it falls in this case to start shouldering faculty responsibilities. We hope our concern will encourage our former colleagues to make their voices heard.


George S. Baroff, psychology

Samuel Baron, history

Karl Bauman, public health

Donald A. Boulton, education

E. Willis Brooks, history

Jane D. Brown, journalism and mass communication

Stan Chojnacki, history

Wayne Christiansen, physics and astronomy

J. Robert Cox, communication studies

Elliot M. Cramer, psychology

Paul B. Farel, cell biology and physiology

Peter Filene, history

George Fishman, operations research

James W. Friedman, economics

Michael H. Hunt, history

Lawrence Kessler, history

Richard H. Kohn, history

Henry A. Landsberger, sociology

William E. Leuchtenberg, history

Madeline G. Levine, Slavic literatures

Townsend Ludington, American studies and English

Arthur S. Marks, art

Donald Mathews, history

Siegfried Mews, German

Theda Perdue, history

Richard W. Pfaff, history

John Shelton Reed, sociology

Lawrence M. Slifkin, physics

Ruel Tyson, religious studies

Anthony J. Vogt, government

Gerhard L. Weinberg, history

Julia T. Wood ’73 (MA), humanities

More online…