UNC 'Whistleblower' Resigns, What She's Saying Now

Apr 22, 2014

Mary Willingham
Credit Chris Griffin / Daily Tar Heel

The reading specialist who questioned the literacy level of athletes who were admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says she's resigning at the end of the semester. 

Mary Willingham confirmed her decision to WUNC after a closed-door meeting with UNC Chancellor Carol Folt.

Back in January, Willingham told CNN that her research of more than 180 football and basketball players from 2004 to 2012 found 60% reading at fourth to eighth grade levels and that about 10% read below a third grade level.

But, UNC  hired three outside experts, who found that her data didn't support her claims.

In the  report, the outside educators say the 25-question multiple choice vocabulary test Willingham used is not a true reading test, adding that a correlation between results on that test and grade-level reading are not sound conclusions.

"It's been a hostile work environment the entire year," Willingham told CNN. "I stuck it out because I wanted to make good on promises to my students, but it has not been fun."

The Daily Tar Heel also quotes Willingham talking about the difficulty of coming to work since she made her allegations. “I’ve been thinking all along about how hard it is to come to work every day, you know there’s always the whisper campaign around you, there’s people who are for you but they don’t want to say,” she said. “There’s people who are against you who don’t want to say.” [Read the full report.]