North Carolina

UNC-CH suspends Willingham's research privileges

Posted January 16, 2014
Updated January 17, 2014

Mary Willingham has worked with student athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 2003.

— Mary Willingham – the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill adviser who claims the UNC system is failing to help student-athletes receive an education – says the university has suspended her research privileges.

Willingham works in the UNC Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling, and from 2003 to 2010, she helped athletes in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes.

During the course of her work, both as a UNC graduate student and employee, Willingham researched how university admission standards are applied to athletes in the high-profile, revenue-driving sports of men's football and basketball.

She found that that 60 percent of the 183 athletes she studied read at a level more common in elementary school and up to 10 percent had the reading skills of a third grader.

Willingham's research made the national spotlight last week as part of a CNN report on academic deficits among student-athletes nationwide.

The school said Thursday evening it has notified Mary Willingham that she can't continue to use data with information that could identify the subjects until she applies to the university's review board that governs human research.

In a statement, the school said researchers don't require board approval for research if it doesn't include identifiable information on the subjects.

Willingham said Thursday night that she has been asked to re-apply for research privileges and said that she plans to do so.

Willingham said Thursday night in a statement that the "gap in academic preparedness between profit-sport athletes and students at NCAA Division I institutions perpetuates educational inequality."

"Until we acknowledge the problem and fix it, many of our athletes, specifically men's basketball and football players, are getting nothing in exchange for their special talents," Willingham added.


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  • nuts4u Jan 20, 2014

    Not that she isn't right here but I would be willing to bet there is a book about the come out. I don't believe for one minute this is about the students. I am sure if you looked at every D-1 college in the country you would find something just like this in their records. And I am sure you wouldn't have to look to hard.

  • Krimson Jan 20, 2014

    I love how the University will throw its own Academic reputation under the bus just to protect the Men's Teams involved.

    Let's just give up the pretense: UNC is a semi-professional sports money making venture disguised as a "prestigious university".

  • edorsettii Jan 19, 2014

    I would love to know what Michael Jordan and Lawrence Taylor GPA's were during the "glory" years. Here you got a employee that has proven facts and the " great" university of corruption has basically to told her toshut her mouth...Just think, she will be fired by the end of the month....So, how long will the NCAA take to sweep this under the rug???

  • jmcdow2792 Jan 18, 2014

    This really looks bad. Coupled with the argurment used by the University based on a different data base, it looks like this lady is being taken advantage of.

  • vply2000 Jan 17, 2014

    You can't make this stuff up! Surprised they didn't use her to help bring about "pay for play". Oops, that would cost them more and make it harder to compete with those that don't pay now.

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Jan 17, 2014

    Good Riddance!

  • roanmtnman2 Jan 17, 2014

    Better get your spin machine working , WRAL, retraction time is coming soon. No way her "research" stands review.....

  • AliceBToklas Jan 17, 2014

    Very sad to see how far down they are taking a once great university.

    What could they be thinking?

  • veryfrustrated1 Jan 17, 2014

    In related news, the NSA has decided today to shut down Mr. Snowden's access to their electronic file system!

    Isn't this just pretty much closing the door long after the horse is out of the barn?

  • borealbob1952 Jan 17, 2014

    Headlines- UNC kills the messenger.
    Problem solved. Chancellor Folt- please stop your attorneys from running your university. Do you have any common sense?




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