Editorial: Uneasy silence

The KU chancellor’s silence on the North Carolina academic scandal only heightens concerns.

People who care about Kansas University are legitimately concerned about the academic scandal involving the University of North Carolina basketball team.

After all, nine years covered by the UNC academic investigation came during the tenure of former KU basketball coach Roy Williams and Wayne Walden, the basketball academic counselor who followed Williams from KU to UNC. Also, the investigation confirmed 18 years of academic fraud at UNC, including 10 years when KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was serving as a top academic officer at UNC.

It’s no wonder KU friends and alumni have some questions and concerns about whether the KU basketball program also could get caught up in the UNC scandal — and Gray-Little’s refusal to address the situation does little to calm those concerns.

In February, soon after news broke about UNC basketball players receiving grades for fake classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, Gray-Little issued a statement saying that, if she had known about the problems at UNC, she “would have taken action to address them.” Since that time she has refused to comment on the situation at UNC. Nor has she commented on any steps she might have taken to make sure KU athletic programs were in the clear regarding academics both before and since she arrived on campus in 2009.

Maybe KU has nothing to fear. Maybe everything on the academic front was on the up and up when Williams and Walden were at KU and after they left. But coaches or academic officials denying that they knew anything about a situation that arguably should have at least raised their suspicions isn’t very comforting. Being able to deny you knew anything about an unpleasant situation doesn’t mean it didn’t happen — or that you shouldn’t have known it was happening at the time.

This is a situation that cries out for involvement by the Kansas Board of Regents, whose members also have been unwilling to comment on the issue. Are the regents demanding more answers from Gray-Little than she is willing to give to the public? What are the regents doing to ensure that all state universities are free of the kind of academic scandal that has erupted at UNC? These are questions that need to be answered.

This is an instance where the silence of KU’s chancellor and the Board of Regents isn’t golden — it only raises concerns and suspicions about what the public isn’t being told.