UNC academic advisor Mary Willingham to resign

The whistleblower on the academic fraud scandal at UNC Chapel Hill is quitting her job.
April 21, 2014 8:12:16 PM PDT
The academic advisor and whistleblower who reported some university athletes reading at a fourth grade level is now leaving her job.

The information came out of a meeting Mary Willingham had with the chancellor Monday morning.

A university spokesperson confirmed the meeting took place, but would only say Willingham was taking time off.

Willingham made it sound more permanent.

"It was a hostile environment," said Willingham. "I was demoted and stripped of my title."

Willingham says life at UNC was a little bit harder after she released her study on athletes in the classroom.

Last year, she testified before a school committee that some athletes are struggling with academics. She even made national news.

"The data is the data and I'm going to stand by that data," said Willingham to ESPN.

Based on test scores, Willingham claims 60-percent of more than 180 UNC athletes she works with read between a fourth and eighth grade reading level. She also described up to ten-percent as functionally illiterate.

School leaders brought in experts to examine these findings. That ended with Provost James Dean reporting those outside experts "finding 'no evidence' to support the literacy claims widely reported."

Those with the University claimed the information Willigham used was not correct.

"The amount of data that was given to the expert was not the same data that I had given," said Willingham.

Now, more than a week after the University released that information, Willingham is deciding to leave after this semester. She's still hoping things will change for athletes at UNC, and in their future.

"I'm hoping we can keep this conversation going and keep this conversation alive because even the people who disagree with me know that the system needs to be changed," said Willingham.

In that same statement, school officials said they accept there are questions about the best way to balance athletics and academics, and are always happy to discuss any concerns.


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