When an outspoken critic of UNC’s ‘athletic scandal’ decided he’d teach a course called ‘Big Time College Sports’ it was bound to rub some people the wrong way.
Jay Smith, a professor of French and European History, wrote Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham about his new class and asked if he could bring his students over to the athletic center for a tour.
Cunningham wrote back he had a better idea: He’d teach the course.
Smith wrote back, Sorry, I’m the historian.
Smith went over Cunningham’s head to Carol Folt, got his tour, and started teaching his class. Summer school passed, the fall semester passed then the new semester rolled around and the earth shifted beneath Smith’s feet.
When the controversy – over cancelling Smith’s class – began the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences ducked. Passing the buck he said it was up to the History Department Chairman to decide.
The History Department Chairman ducked too – he said he’d have to consult the Senior Associate Dean.
The Senior Associate Dean didn’t duck – he vanished.
Forty-five UNC history professors wrote a letter saying cancelling a class – about ‘Big Time College Sports’ – was an infringement on their freedom and a blow to their intellectual life.
The History Department was in turmoil.
But, oddly, no one asked the one question you’d expect. What’s more important: A professor of European History teaching students about the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution or ‘Big-Time College Sports’ at Chapel Hill?