UNC Board of Trustees review status of Mary Willingham's research

Some administrators at Carolina are downplaying the latest controversy on campus.
January 22, 2014 3:28:10 PM PST
UNC officials and a review board are trying to get to the bottom of research that claims some student athletes have poor reading skills.

The school's Board of Trustees met for several hours Wednesday afternoon.

Mary Willingham, the UNC academic advisor who ignited this latest UNC firestorm, did not attend the meeting. However, her controversial claims about the literacy of UNC athletes were a big part of the discussion.

UNC's Board of Trustees heard from the university's provost, James W. Dean Jr., who gave the board an update on his special panel's review of UNC student athletic program.

The review got underway back in August, but it is back in the spotlight after Willingham's headline making interview with CNN, claiming 60 percent of the 183 UNC athletes she worked with read between a fourth and eighth grade reading level. Willingham's research claims 8 to 10 percent are functionally illiterate.

Since the story went national, UNC has revoked Willingham's research privileges, saying she violated research rules.

Last week, provost Dean blasted Willingham's study as flawed, questioning her research and methodology.

On Wednesday, Dean said UNC is on the right track in improving the connection between athletics and education.

"We're doing most things pretty well- maybe even very well in a lot of cases. I think we're doing admissions very well. I think there's opportunities for improvement in a number of other areas- but we're getting there," Dean said.

On Wednesday, UNC denied revoking Willingham's research privileges saying she is still on staff at the school, but her work is on hold until a review board studies the research.

? Click here to read UNC's statement on Institutional Review Board status of Willingham research. ?

Since the story went national, Willingham has stood by claims that UNC admits unqualified athletes and fails to educate them.

However, in front of the Board of Trustees, UNC Faculty Chair Jan Boxill pushed back.

"I think we provide a quality education for everybody here- can we say that everybody got the same kind of education? Nobody does!" Boxill said.

UNC is conducting what it calls "independent review" of Willingham's claims. A university representative would not say who was conducting that review, but says it will be complete by the end of the week.

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