“You Promised to GIVE Me a Degree”: The Case of Race, Academic Dishonesty, and Entitlement at UNC

Rarely a day passes when I do not see someone, usually one of my students, totally giving away all of their power in how their life will progress, most notably their failure to capitalize upon incomprehensible opportunities that their ancestors have fought and died for. The alluded to opportunities have historically been denied to African-Americans for no other reason than that dubois2dastardly variable that W.E.B. Du Bois termed ‘the problem of the twentieth-century;’ race. Although I vehemently fight against the assertion that America is now in a post-race period, the truth is that many, not all, of the obstacles that have historically blocked the socioeconomic advancement of African-Americans are no-loner unconquerable. So I was not surprised when former University of North Carolina football player Mike McAdoo filed a lawsuit against the school for not ensuring that he received a college degree.

Mr. McAdoo told CNN that during his recruitment that athletics were not emphasized, rather they convinced the McAdoo’s that UNC was the place for their son by telling them that “…we can’t promise your son that he’s going to go to the NFL, but one thing that we can promise him is that he will get a college degree.” Mike McAdoo’s recollection of his recruitment is particularly insightful as he remembers the promise that “…he will get a college degree.” mcadooThe papers filed in federal court actually state that UNC ‘broke its promise to give him an education.’ Mr. McAdoo’s continuing failure to recognize that UNC provided him an opportunity to EARN a college degree or be positioned to EARN an education, represents the perspective of so many students who expect that after four, five, more commonly six years, they will RECEIVE a college degree. Such a perspective reminds me of a favorite rap line by Grand Verbalizer Funkin Lesson Brother J when he states that our people are always “trying to obtain with no attempt to achieve.

Without a doubt this class action lawsuit filed by Mr. McAdoo is merely ‘a sign of the times’ for this latest generation of African-Americans. From all indicators, a wide swath of our latest generation are absent the determination and perseverance that has under girded racial progress throughout our storied history on the th (2)North American continent. However, it is obvious to me that the mantra I was taught by preceding generations that my success hinged upon my realizing that ‘I would have to work twice as hard, to get half as far’ seems to be lost upon this latest generation.

Although it is going to be considered politically incorrect to state this, I believe that the onus for this matter falls upon the shoulders of Mr. Mike McAdoo; bear in mind that my assertion does not mean that I am absolving UNC from wrongdoing, obviously their treatment of student-athletes during this 18-year academic scandal that was solely motivated by an admirable determination to ensure their eligibility is reprehensible. However, it is time that African-American youth abandon their victimized status, assert agency in regards to the determination of their lives, and thereby become the architects of their future.

I do not doubt for one moment Mr. McAdoo’s assertion that the UNC Student-Athlete support areas “…sole purpose (was) ensuring that football student-athletes were eligible to participate in athletics, rather than actually educating them.” Nor do I doubt the allegation that “UNC has reaped substantial profits from football student-athletes’ performance for the school, but it has not provided them a legitimate education in return.” However, I studentsmaintain that it is Mr. McAdoo’s responsibility to go forth and earn his degree and education by long hours studying and researching in the library. There is an unwritten rule in academia that students should study for at least 9 hours a week for a 3 semester credit hour course.

One of the issues that we as a community have glossed over out of an attempt to be politically correct and ‘not air our dirty laundry’ is the reality that the vast majority of African-American students are simply unprepared academically, not to mention extremely comfortable in the lackadaisical study habits that serve as the primary catalyst behind their lagging behind in every academic statistic used to evaluate achievement, to deal with either the students 2rigors or display the necessary discipline to succeed in college. For example, although Mr. McAdoo’s high school GPA was 2.9, the typical non student-athlete admitted to UNC earned a GPA of 3.6 – 4.3. Federal prosecutor Ken Wainstein is most certainly remarking about African-American student-athletes when he remarks that UNC was admitting students who were simply unprepared for collegiate work. However, such a discussion is best left for another day.

Mr. McAdoo, assuming the role of the ultimate victim told CNN that “I lost an education. I lost trust in the school — someone I thought had my best interest.” In time, I pray that McAdoo understands that the onus is upon him to act upon his best interests and not allow others to dictate his present and thereby control his future. Failure to do such is not only ridiculous, but also guarantees that in the end you will feel as if you were cheated. sharecroppingAlthough UNC’s actions were wrong, Mr. McAdoo’s failure to EARN his education by capitalizing upon the voluminous unprecedented opportunities his athletic prowess afforded him is tantamount to a personal injury that exceeds anything that the institution he once entrusted with his future ever did.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III


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