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N.C. Opinions: Greensboro

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Dueling whistles

From an editorial Friday in the (Greensboro) News & Record:

Posters on the Inside Carolina sports message board allege that a former learning specialist at UNC who has criticized the school for cutting academic corners for athletes may have done the same for herself as a graduate student at UNCG.

They may be right. In an online analysis of Willingham’s master’s thesis in liberal studies, they correctly point out passages that were used, in some cases, word for word, without properly citing the sources.

In all fairness, the paper does include an extensive bibliography and 50 citations, but the lapses do reveal carelessness on Willingham’s part as a writer and researcher, at the least. Willingham said the missing citations were oversights, not intentional omissions.

As for whether these revelations vindicate Carolina and render moot the allegations of academic fraud there, of course they don’t. The body of evidence is still compelling:

Clearly, Willingham’s stature as one of UNC’s most outspoken critics is diminished. Further, the integrity of her own research of athletes’ literacy at Carolina, which already has been disputed, is now called into greater question.

Yet it would be a dramatic leap of logic and faith to pronounce that, “Mary Willingham may have plagiarized parts of her thesis; therefore all allegations against Carolina are unfounded.”

The best medicine is an honest assessment of the problems, and a firm commitment by the university to fix them.

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