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Former UNC-Chapel Hill professor indicted in academic scandal

Posted December 2, 2013
Updated December 3, 2013

Julius Nyang'oro
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— Julius Nyang’oro, the former chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was indicted Monday by an Orange County grand jury on a charge related to an academic scandal at the school.

Nyang’oro could face up to 30 months in prison if he is convicted of obtaining property by false pretense, which is a felony. Investigators said he accepted $12,000 for teaching a class that never happened.

The university reclaimed the money through garnishment of his final paycheck.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Nyang’oro is expected to surrender Tuesday, when his first court appearance is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Nyang'oro resigned in August as chairman of the department, which was at the center of an investigation into academic fraud involving Tar Heel football players. The allegations focused on no-show classes, altered grades and other improprieties revealed at the university during an NCAA investigation into the football program that began in the summer of 2010.

What began as a look at whether players were getting gifts from agents expanded to include a probe of the academic support system, revealing plagiarism and other improprieties, and resulted in punishment for the football team that extends into 2015.

An internal investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin into academic irregularities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed that any irregularities were concentrated in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and dated to about 1994. Martin found no anomalies outside of that department and no specific link between the scandal and student athletes.

The report, which was released in December 2012, covered 18 academic years and included 84 interviews with faculty, staff and others. It found that the improprieties were isolated to Nyang'oro and staffer Deborah Crowder. Both were not interviewed for the report because, Martin noted, they did not return phone calls.

"The action described in today’s indictment is completely inconsistent with the standards and aspirations of this great institution," UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement. "This has been a difficult chapter in the university’s history, and we have learned many lessons. I am confident, because of effective processes already put in place, we are moving ahead as a stronger institution with more transparent academic policies, procedures and safeguards.”

UNC President Tom Ross said he supports the decision to seek an indictment against Nyang'oro, and he agreed with Folt that new policies adopted in the wake of the scandal have strengthened UNC-Chapel Hill.

"There have been multiple investigations and reviews of these matters that should give us all assurance that we have taken all reasonable and available steps to uncover the facts of this situation," Ross said in a statement. "In addition, over the past two years, UNC-Chapel Hill and the UNC system have implemented extensive new policies, procedures and safeguards to prevent similar problems from ever happening again, and we believe these efforts are appropriate, comprehensive, strong and represent best practices."

UNC-Chapel Hill students Caleb Fulmore and Carolina Perry said Monday that the indictment reflects poorly on their school.

"It's really unfortunate and a little embarrassing for the university," Fulmore said. "But, you just have to learn from it and move forward."

"UNC is resilient and will bounce back," Perry added.

125 Comments

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  • Objective Scientist Dec 3, 2013

    "@Objective Scientist: Please permit me to disagree. The Administration knew and has known for years. UNC has been committing academic fraud with regards to the black football and basketball players for decades. Lawrence Taylor's book pretty much let us know that." - post by uBnice

    uBnice-- by all means disagree. With such things I would never pretend to know with certainty whether someone knew or did not know anything. I make no claim to be a "mind reader". You may be correct... although I hope for the sake of the institution that you are not. I believe it entirely possible that higher administration suspected "something was not right" but deliberately chose to "look the other way", deliberately chose not to look into what they suspected. One thing that would have aroused my curiosity was the Chair of the AA Dept - or ANY dept - "teaching" summer school classes but refusing to be paid for it! However, higher admin folks do not find such "trivia" glamorous enough to deal with it

  • seankelly15 Dec 3, 2013

    I am not who you think I am - "What if one AA calls another AA a cat is that racist. I guess we just need a rulebook"

    If you NEED to use initials for a racial group then I suspect you are a racist irrespective of the use of the word 'cat'.

  • seankelly15 Dec 3, 2013

    Justic4All -

    "EEOC compliant." - this has nothing to do with anything - just your attempt to sound more knowledgeable than you are.

    "Beside that faculty members such as these people are undoubtably tenured so they have diplomatic immunity." - Diplomatic immunity? Huh? And, for your information, tenured faculty can be removed and what has been alleged would be one reason for removal.

    "And judging by the racial make up of the accused and all others before him, I thing this is a case of profiling in the worse way." - First, the word is think not thing and the word is worst not worse. Second, who are the others before them?

  • A person Dec 3, 2013

    Where is the NAACP screaming that these kids were taking advantage of by all the illegal activity??? Oh, wait, it is because they profited from all the illegal activity

  • sinenomine Dec 3, 2013

    Many comments seem to have to do with early childhood education, or the lack thereof.

    If early childhood education really helped then we should not still be seeing stories like the one this morning in The Washington Post. It is here:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/us-students-lag-around-average-on-international-science-math-and-reading-test/2013/12/02/2e510f26-5b92-11e3-a49b-90a0e156254b_story.html

    The fact is that any advantage gained by early childhood education is lost by the early grades of elementary school. There is no quick way to a good education and no substitute for a good teacher, a sound curriculum, and a motivated student. You can find the right combination in some modern schools, of course - but you can also find the right combination in some of the few remaining one room schoolhouses.

  • stymieindurham Dec 3, 2013

    I though Butch specialized in sports contracts negotiations.

  • stymieindurham Dec 3, 2013

    Good ol' Butch Williams to the rescue. Haaaaa.

  • I am not who you think I am Dec 3, 2013

    Regarding "cat" being a racist term, I knew a man back in the late 1960s who used the term "cats" in a derogatory fashion to refer to African-American people. I'm not sure how wide the usage is but, in my experience, it was unquestionably used as a mild racial slur, at least by some people, as long ago as close to fifty years.....sinenomine

    ok let me get this straight. If I say I saw this cat run across the road and up a tree yesterday I'm a racist. The cat had 4 legs and was being chased by a black dog..does that make it a hate crime

    What if one AA calls another AA a cat is that racist. I guess we just need a rulebook

  • sinenomine Dec 3, 2013

    Regarding "cat" being a racist term, I knew a man back in the late 1960s who used the term "cats" in a derogatory fashion to refer to African-American people. I'm not sure how wide the usage is but, in my experience, it was unquestionably used as a mild racial slur, at least by some people, as long ago as close to fifty years.

  • gingerlynn Dec 3, 2013

    how did he get paid $12000 for one summer school class even IF it met! My husband is an associate professor and gets about 1/3 of that! For a MATH class!

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