by P.J. Hairston | The Minor
I just read the Wainstein report, and I have to say I‘m disappointed. I expected better from a university that prides itself on academic excellence as much as athletic prowess. This report brought home to me that each and every one of you is complicit in an unjust system. I never felt this way about the Texas Legends.
Jan Boxill, Deborah Crowder, and Julius Nyang’oro: you should be ashamed of yourselves. I’m sure you all have your reasons for doing what you did. Jan, I can imagine the sleepless nights when you rehearsed for yourself the complex rationalizations that would lead an ethics professor to such moral profligacy. Deborah, I can see the conflicted pride in your campaign to subvert the elitist rhetoric of academic rigor, in fighting to free your beloved Carolina from its ivory tower. Julius, I sympathize with your ethical conundrum; sending underprivileged athletes back to their communities sans education, sans opportunity, and sans hope for a better life is not a morally superior course of action. No, I do not find guilt in keeping the doors of Carolina open to such students. I only find it reprehensible that you lacked the courage of your convictions.
I expect a higher standard of conduct from you.
Julius and Deborah, your lax oversight and willful dissimulation aided fraternity members as often as athletic scholarship students. These were not students for whom you had to fear. They had the resources not just to compete, but to excel at Carolina. Your classes became bastions of privilege even as you imagined them to be the last line of defense against a system of rigid social stratification. If student athletes did not have the resources they need to remain at Carolina, why didn’t you fight for those resources? Where were your voices to challenge injustice? I can’t imagine such cowardice from anyone here in Charlotte.
Jan, how did you justify your actions? If you imagined these students would be better off at Carolina than not, what were your reasons? If you hoped to help these students to professional careers in their sport, I can see your logic for passing along a linebacker or a point guard on the men’s basketball team. But how would taking a paper class help a lacrosse player or a women’s basketball player? From virtually all sides, these athletes, these would-be students, are told their worth is athletic rather than intellectual. Do they need to hear it from you too? These students cannot hope to make much of a living in their sports; don’t they need their time here to learn other skills? If such a balance is impossible, why wouldn’t you, a professor of sports ethics, say something? It feels like I could find more ethical decision-making in my pinky finger than in those who supposedly teach it.
To the coaches, especially to Roy, I say you should be ashamed of yourselves. You got off clean, but you are the real villains here. Whether by intent or through spinelessness, you have forwarded a corrupt and abusive system. Like true politicians, like true executives, like true criminals, you have skillfully maintained plausible deniability. No emails, no tests–nothing exists to directly implicate you. With the exception of Butch Davis, none of you got to where you are by being stupid. You knew you had a business to run. You protected yourselves so well that I cannot imagine you gave much thought to the conditions which produce your athletes and sustain your programs. Y’all are too cynical for that. I’m glad I made the decisions that allow me to never have to interact with you again.
To the students, you should be ashamed of yourselves too. Our campus is still segregated culturally, racially, and economically. It is only this distance between us that allows the average fan to forget about the struggles that athletes face off the court while they watch them on it. It is only this distance which allows you to offer adulation to an athlete’s face while mocking his stupidity behind his back. Maybe the distance between one group and the other is too great. Maybe the difference is irreconcilable. Maybe the gap is unbridgeable. Maybe no hyphen can bring together student and athlete. If so, we must be honest about it. If not, we must fight for a more equitable system, one that puts the wellbeing of the student, of every student, before all else.
This is about two decades of moral bankruptcy, not two days of outrage. I have to put down my blunt just to think about it. This is not the Carolina way. UNC, I am ashamed.