- UNC-Chapel Hill is hiring a “Chief Integrity and Policy Officer” to improve oversight
- Position only adds to bureaucracy and is unlikely to create any actual change.
- Asking the university to patrol “integrity” is ironic given that today’s universities do little to promote virtue and morality
Last week Chancellor Carol Folt announced the University of North California-Chapel Hill would hire a chief integrity and policy officer to help the university move forward in the aftermath of the years-long athletic and academic scandals.
Chief Integrity and Policy Officer? It all sounds puzzling and excessively bureaucratic to me.
Two campus-wide working groups reviewed existing policies after the release of the 2014 Wainstein Report, which documented how over nearly two decades administrators created fake classes for athletes to help them maintain their eligibility.
The reports concluded “the campus already has in place a strong array of programs and resources related to ethics and integrity.” In addition, the reports also “failed to identify any significant gaps in programs, resources and reporting mechanisms.”
Reading such language, it’s hard to imagine faculty members who wrote the report even think UNC-Chapel Hill has an ethics reporting or compliance problem.
If the present system and mechanisms were adequate, how could the campus let a scandal percolate for 18 years under its nose?
But we all know something needed to be done to address the stain that recent scandals had put on UNC-Chapel Hill’s reputation. So they created the post of chief integrity and policy officer to serve as “the University’s lead for policy management practices that underlie our ethics and integrity efforts, allowing Carolina to continually implement best practices in those areas in a coordinated manner across the campus.”
Not exactly language to get your heart pounding – only more and more bureaucracy.
A quick view of academia and the business world reveal positions like chief integrity officer are becoming more common. Of course, studying or talking about something provides no guarantee that it will raise the level of integrity or ethics. See Jan Boxill, former director of the Parr Center for Ethics at UNC, who got caught up in this very scandal.
Integrity refers to the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles – high and lofty ideas. But does anyone really see UNC as being a defender of strong moral principles? Moral relativism rules the day at most modern universities, including UNC-Chapel Hill. That act of standing up for strong moral principles and a belief in transcendent moral truths is itself offensive to those who run our colleges and universities.
Don’t be fooled. The creation of chief integrity and policy officer is just another excuse to expand the bureaucracy that runs our universities. And UNC-Chapel Hill is a bureaucracy. Today the costs of instruction comprise only 25 percent of the UNC Chapel Hill’s $2.6 billion budget. Clearly educating students is not the top priority.
The whole idea that a college or university needs an integrity officer seems at odds with many of the ideals associated with higher education. Most campuses have unwritten rules of ethics and behavior that are intended to govern faculty, students and the campus environment. The very nature of the university assumes students and teachers must possess a certain level of moral character and maturity – whether followed perfectly or not – to engage in university life. Most students and faculty are aware of what constitutes good or bad behavior. An individual has the responsibility to uphold the standards.
Saddling one person with responsibility for enforcing “integrity” is Orwellian. It’s mere window dressing unlikely to significantly improve the campus climate. There is great irony in asking the university to patrol “integrity” when the environment of today’s university does little to cultivate such virtues. You have to wonder why anyone would expect such a position to really make a difference.
In the Abolition of Man C.S. Lewis correctly predicts that moral relativism would lead to a decay of morality and the loss of virtue. We fail to educate the heart. We are left with intelligent men who behave like brutes, or as Lewis puts it, “men without chests.” We continue to clamor for integrity and other virtues but we fail to realize that neither our schools nor our universities produce individuals who honor virtue and morality.
Patrolling “integrity” on such campuses is an ill-conceived response to a troubling episode. It’s an effort that’s doomed to failure.