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N.C. Opinions: Fayetteville

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Whistleblower gone

From an editorial in the Fayetteville Observer on Tuesday:

Mary Willingham is calling it quits. The learning specialist said Monday she will resign from the University of North Carolina at the end of the semester. She helped blow the whistle on phony classes tailored to help athletes remain academically eligible. She also raised accusations that some athletes were basically illiterate.

The university should have thanked Willingham for her role in upholding its honor, unmasking a pattern of fraud. Instead, she encountered hostility.

A few faculty members were forced to leave after a probe substantiated many of her claims, including no-show classes in the Afro-American Studies department. But the investigation, reinitiated after her latest accusations, hasn't delved sufficiently into who knew about the cheating.

In regard to illiteracy assertions, the university accused Willingham of violating athletes' privacy. Experts the university brought forward to criticize her work weren’t even given access to all of her information, she said.

Kenneth Wainstein, a former U.S. Justice Department official, has been asked to re-examine the fraudulent classes, but it’s not clear the illiteracy claims are within the inquiry’s scope. It’s also unclear whether he’ll look at potential abuse of power by high-ranking UNC administrators. Outside groups have said the school violated federal whistleblower laws in its treatment of Willingham.

Sooner or later, someone higher up will have to answer for the cheating, the cover-up and this public servant’s treatment.

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