Small-time move on ‘big-time’ UNC class

The Observer editorial board

A popular UNC Chapel Hill class on big-time college athletics has been canceled. Why?
A popular UNC Chapel Hill class on big-time college athletics has been canceled. Why? TIM COWIE/

From Jim Jenkins, deputy editorial page editor of the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

If ever there was a college campus where a history course in college athletics – “big-time” athletics – was more appropriate, or more needed, it’s the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

But it’s clear after a report from The News & Observer’s Jane Stancill on the cancellation of such a course that administrators at the university don’t agree.

The scenario: Professor Jay Smith of the Department of History taught a course called “Big-Time College Sports and the Rights of Athletes, 1956 to the present.” Smith’s been one of the university’s internal critics regarding the long-running UNC scandal, still in the process of review by the NCAA. He co-wrote a book about it, “Cheated.”

The university has a process for reviewing whether courses work with students, and by all measures, Smith’s did. An overwhelming majority of students, 77 percent, said the course was excellent. But now the course is off the books, and various communications among personnel really come down to one reason why: History 383 may be liked by students, but it’s intensely unpopular with administrators, who have left the explanation for its disappearance to others.

This shows, of course, an unflattering fear of criticism from those at the top. Their reluctance to get everything about the scandal out in the open has only prolonged the controversy and made it worse.

Congratulations, professor Smith. You’re the latest victim of a Speaker Ban.

State of conflict

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

Gov. Roy Cooper lost a round in court last week and didn’t like it. “It looks like the threats from the legislature had an effect on these judges,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said after a three-judge panel dismissed the governor’s suit against the legislature over the composition of election boards and an ethics commission.

That was out of line.

It was a reference to a statement made in February by legislative leaders Phil Berger and Tim Moore after a court ruled against them in a different case.

“Their decision to legislate from the bench will have profound consequences, and they should immediately reconvene their panel and reverse their order,” Berger and Moore said in a statement.

It was wrong for legislative leaders to threaten a court with unspecified consequences. It’s also wrong for the governor, or his spokesman, to suggest that judges yielded to threats last week.

The courts should be free of political influence. It erodes confidence in their impartiality when state leaders threaten them with “consequences” or imply they have given in to bullying.

A drive on U.S. 74

From an editorial Tuesday in the (Wilmington) Star-News:

Many rural areas of North Carolina are hurting economically. That was obvious to us over the weekend as we traveled U.S. 74 across a good chunk of the state and got a front-row view of the disparity that leaders need to address so the entire state can thrive, not just a handful of urban and coastal areas.

These forgotten places need help. What won’t help, however, is the latest effort by Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican, to shift sales-tax revenue from prosperous counties to poorer areas. It would hurt areas that are driving the economy, and there’s little reason to think it would be enough to help struggling areas.

How about focusing on U.S. 74’s economically disparate areas, which already have connections with Charlotte and Wilmington?

We think continuing to improve the 450-mile corridor – focusing on creative economic development, geographical assets and natural connections – would go a long way in helping areas that are seeing little benefit from North Carolina’s vibrant economy.