On Sunday, Dave Zirin joined Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss the shadow classes scandal at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Zirin described the practice as the “educational money laundering of young black men through the African-American studies department.” He added, “We’ve talked about this before, that NCAA revenue-producing sports is basically the organized theft of black wealth and the fact that it happened through the African-American studies department is particularly bitter.”
The Wainstein Report represents a welcome improvement over the previous one-dimensional narrative of misconduct at UNC. Specifically, the report exposes complicity outside and well beyond the “Nyang’oro-Crowder scheme.” Indeed, there seems to have been a wide institutional network that facilitated academic fraud. It is important to note that most members of the AAAD/AFAM department were not part of this network, and we want to reaffirm our support and appreciation of our colleagues and their important contributions to the research and teaching mission of the University. In addition, we would like to bring to this discussion questions and issues that have not been sufficiently broached. Foremost among these issues is the hierarchical structure that undergirds academic departments and the college and university as a whole. Recognizing these kinds of power imbalances require us to question the proposed assignment of blame. Because the report ignores some of these larger power imbalances, it facilitates the scapegoating of lower-level employees, such as untenured faculty, fixed-term lecturers, academic counselors and staff. At the same time, those with the most power, such as coaches and senior administrators, largely escape accountability. The punishment of scapegoats may once again obscure the larger systemic dimensions of the problems now brought to light. We, the UNC Progressive Faculty Network, call for an open forum of the university community so that we may discuss these issues further before any disciplinary decisions are enacted.
For more on this subject, Dave Zirin recommends a column by Omololu Refilwe Babatunde in The Daily Tar Heel.