Academic adviser Mary Willingham to leave UNC-Chapel Hill
Posted April 21, 2014
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Mary Willingham, an academic adviser at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says she will leave the university after finishing her classes this semester.
Willingham was the subject of national media attention after she questioned the literacy level of athletes who were admitted to the school. She said that most of the 183 basketball and football players she reviewed from 2004 to 2012 read at an eighth-grade level or below.
A school spokeswoman said Willingham had a private meeting with UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt on Monday and told her that she planned to take time off. The university was not aware that she was quitting, the spokeswoman said.
Willingham's data was featured in reports on CNN, ESPN and HBO in recent months. In its report, CNN didn't use SAT or ACT scores but rather a custom calculation to measure the reading skills of the student-athletes.
UNC-Chapel Hill officials rebutted Willingham's claims in January, saying that an internal review found that more than 97 percent of the first-year student-athletes enrolled between 2004 and 2012 exceeded CNN's threshold. The majority of those who didn't eventually graduated, officials said.
The school later asked researchers at the University of Virginia, the University of Minnesota and Georgia State University to analyze the data independently, and UNC-Chapel Hill administrators said that their findings back up the the stance that the majority of the school's student-athletes "scored at or above college entry level on the SATA Reading Vocabulary subtest."
SATA, the Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults, was given to some student-athletes shortly after arriving on campus as part of a screening process to identify possible learning differences or learning disabilities.
The researchers said the test shouldn't be used to draw conclusions about overall reading ability.
Willingham has said she stands by her research.