UNC-CH: Our data disputes claims about athlete reading levels
Posted January 16
Updated January 17
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Chancellor Carol Folt said Thursday that she is investigating claims that some student-athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill read at grade-school level and called the latest controversy part of UNC’s “painful journey” in addressing the academic preparation of athletes.
“Carolina’s recent academic and athletic improprieties shook our university to its core. In spite of seven investigations and numerous reforms already in place, this continues to be a painful journey for the Carolina community, and I will not ignore the lessons learned,” she wrote.
Folt’s remarks came in an open letter addressed to the “Carolina community” that was posted on the school’s website Thursday morning and distributed by email. It the first time the chancellor has commented since a story aired on CNN last week that highlighted the poor reading levels of student-athletes who attended UNC between 2004 and 2012.
In an effort to refute data compiled by UNC adviser Mary Willingham and shared with CNN, the university’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions released findings that all 154 student-athletes admitted under a "special talent" waiver who enrolled in fall 2013 had reading skills that met the threshold CNN set for being “college-literate.”
In its report, CNN did not use SAT or ACT scores but rather a custom calculation to come to the conclusion that UNC athletes in revenue sports had sub-standard reading skills.
In an interview with WRAL News Wednesday, Willingham said the data she shared with CNN was available to UNC administrators but that they simply didn't look at it.
"(I was) waiting for the university to do the right thing, and they still haven’t done the right thing,” Willingham said.
In her letter, Folt did not name Willingham but said the university is continuing to investigate what has been publicized in recent media reports.
“…we have been unable to reconcile these claims with either our own facts or with those data currently being cited as the source for the claims. Moreover, the data presented in the media does not match up with those data gathered by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions,” she said in the letter.
Citing an example, Folt said only two of 321 student-athletes admitted in 2012 and 2013 fell below the SAT and ACT levels cited in the CNN report.
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions also published these findings:
- Between 2004 and 2012, the same time period examined by CNN, UNC-Chapel Hill enrolled 1,377 first-year student-athletes through the special-talent policies and procedures. More than 97 percent (1,338) of those students met the CNN threshold. Thirty-nine students (2.83 percent) did not meet the threshold.
- Of the 34 students recruited for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball who did not meet the threshold, 20 students (59 percent) either have graduated from the University or remain enrolled and in good academic standing. Another 10 students (29 percent) left the University academically eligible to return. The other four students left the University and would have to restore their academic eligibility in order to return.