CHAPEL HILL: Experts refute claims UNC athletes couldn't read - WRBL

Experts refute claims by UNC counselor; she rips their report

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The department also had unauthorized grade changes and other problems dating to the late 1990s. The department also had unauthorized grade changes and other problems dating to the late 1990s.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Three experts hired by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to investigate claims of low literacy levels for Tar Heel athletes found no evidence to support those claims, UNC announced Friday.

Whether Carolina’s athletes were prepared for a school like UNC, especially in the revenue sports, has been debated since Carolina counselor Mary Willingham said her researched raised serious concerns.

Willingham said some Tar Heel athletes read at elementary school levels.

"I am speaking out because the young men I worked with here deserved better than what we offered them," Willingham previously told WNCN. "The scholarship agreement is often fraudulent. We promise an education in exchange for talent, and that's not what we are providing to many of these young people at our school and at schools across the country."

UNC has questioned her accusations, and Provost James Dean called her research “a travesty” when he faced the UNC faculty Jan. 17.

Carolina said Friday that it hired three experts to look into the claims. Those experts were:

· Dr. Nathan Kuncel, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota;

· Dr. Lee Alan Branum-Martin, associate professor of psychology and co-investigator in the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy at Georgia State University;

· Dennis Kramer, assistant professor of higher education at the University of Virginia.

In a news release, UNC said the three experts analyzed data of 176 new athletes provided to the provost Jan. 13. Those athletes had took the SATA Reading Vocabulary subtest after arriving on campus to help identify any learning issues.

Carolina said the experts but reached similar conclusions. Specifically, their report said, “The data do not support the public claims about the students’ reading ability.”

Willingham, in response, told CNN, "I will have a full response to today's news once I've had the chance to digest everything in the report. For now I will just say that I adisappointeded that the university neglected to take even the most basic steps to ensure the integrity, impartiality and fairness of its supposedly 'independentreviewew of my data.

"The fact that they engaged in this exercise without ever seeking input from me or my research partner, and without the raw scores, or an examination of the full battery of tests (on a majority of these same athletes) available in Accessibility Resources speaks volumes about the true motivation behind today's press release.

"UNC personnel with the knowledge and expertise to verify my claims continue to remain and/or are being forced to remain silent."

WNCN visited Willingham's home Friday night. She did not return our request for an interview.

Stephen Farmer, a UNC Vice Provost, told WNCN in an interview, "People make claims about our students. We wanted to get to the bottom of the claims. We found people who we thought would help us," he said. 


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