Former teacher, university speak about Mizzou NCAA sanctions

8 months 1 week 3 days ago Monday, February 04 2019 Feb 4, 2019 Monday, February 04, 2019 1:30:00 PM CST February 04, 2019 in News
By: Jared Austin, KOMU 8 Reporter and Johannah Grenaway, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA - Just days after sanctions were announced on Mizzou, a former applicant for the tutor position said she declined the job because it felt weird what Mizzou was telling her to do.

Simona Vaughn said her "ethics screamed" at her to decline a tutoring position with the university. 

"Literally, I felt like I would be committing fraud, I remember writing that in my journal. I was sick to my stomach. I was not going to be a pawn for the sports department," Vaughn said.

She applied to be a tutor for Mizzou in October of 2004. During her interview, she said the university told her the athletes need to pass their classes.

Tami Chievous, one of Mizzou's Associate Athletic Directors, said they do not have records that go back 15 years. She also said the university has never told a tutor to do the student's homework for them.

"Through all of our training, we tell our tutors that at the end of the day, the student-athlete is responsible for their grades," Chievous said. 

Chievous has been a part of Mizzou's athletic department for 18 years and is the athletic director for academic services since 2013. 

"We have an application. We ask for a resume. We ask for a transcript and we also ask for three letters of recommendation," Chievous said.

Recently, the NCAA penalized Mizzou's athletic program after a cheating investigation found former Mizzou tutor Yolanda Kumar violated academic and ethics rules by completing coursework for twelve student-athletes.

According to Chievous, when the allegations were first made public, the university reported it to the NCAA immediately. 

Chievous said Kumar was hired because of her exemplary work and the recommendations she received from her peers. 

"[Yolanda Kumar] came highly recommended from our campus and so we were excited about having her in our program," Chievous said. 

The investigation did not find evidence of Kumar getting direction to complete courses for students.

Vaughn heard about the investigation and said that's exactly why she did not accept the position herself. 

"Every time I saw that story I thought, you know, that Yolanda woman actually experienced what I avoided by not taking that job," she said. 

"This was all communicated through key words like, 'Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to make sure the athletes can continue playing,'" Vaughn said. "It was pretty obvious what they were saying."

Being in charge of the student-athletes coursework, Chievous talked about how each person has their own personal plans for class work.

She outlined how tutors and the personal plans hold them accountable for their grades, but tutors are never to complete the work for the students. 

"We are not here to do assignments for them, to do quizzes and exams because the ultimate grade is the student's responsibility," Chievous said. 

Both Vaughn and Chievous agreed punishing the current student athletes is unfair for actions made by a former tutor and players. 

"I want them to learn, to think. That's what college is all about," Vaughn said. "I think instead of sanctions, we just need to look at restructuring and really focus on giving them more balance."

Chievous said, "It just saddens me that they're the ones getting punished over what was done several years ago."

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