N&O report: Mary Willingham accused of plagarism

News and Observer reporter Dan Kane is reporting that Mary Willingham’s 2009 master’s thesis has come under fire because of accusations of plagiarism. From Mr. Kane’s article, which was posted Monday night on the newspaper’s website,

This past weekend, it was the UNC fans’ turn to tap their computer keyboards and scrutinize a college paper. But this one was written by Mary Willingham, the former UNC learning specialist who later blew the whistle on the misconduct.

They parsed the master’s thesis she wrote in 2009, and posted on the Inside Carolina Internet message board what appear to be several examples in which her wording either mirrors or closely resembles other sources. In some cases, she cites sources but doesn’t put their information in quotes. In others, she did not cite the source.

The paper – “Academics & Athletics – A Clash of Cultures: Division I Football Programs” – helped earn her a master’s degree from UNC Greensboro. Her thesis is highly critical of the NCAA and its member colleges that are bringing in millions of dollars from TV contracts and other sources, and it contends that the stated goal of educating athletes has been pushed aside in the grab for dollars.

Willingham in a phone interview said she worked hard on the paper, calling the experience “brutal.” She said any instances in which information was not properly cited or quoted were inadvertent. The paper includes more than 60 citations, at least a dozen passages that are in quotes and a bibliography of more than 30 sources.

“Whatever I did, I did, and, you know, whatever,” she said. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”

The newspaper report went on to provide examples of potential plagiarism. Willingham’s quote about the accusation, shown below in UNC beat reporter Andrew Carter’s tweet, is very telling.

Another tweet form Carter.

I highly suggest reading this post, titled Why Mary Willingham’s Credibility is Important, on Tar Heel Blog, SB Nation’s UNC blog, for more on the significance of these findings.

Let us know your reactions to these latest findings in the comments below.

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Tags: Basketball Football Mary Willingham North Carolina Tar Heels

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