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Indicted ex-professor to fight fraud charge

Posted December 3, 2013
Updated December 4, 2013

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— A former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor who was indicted Monday on a fraud charge surrendered to authorities Tuesday morning and was released on a $30,000 bond.

Julius Nyang’oro was accompanied to the Orange County Courthouse by his wife and attorney Butch Williams. He declined to comment and entered a not guilty plea during his first court appearance.

"There’s been one side of the story that has been put forth in the press, but we intend to present his side," defense attorney Bil Thomas said. "We think this was an unfortunate decision to charge Dr. Nyang’oro, and we intend to fight these charges."

A grand jury indicted Nyang'oro, 59, of 9 Wickersham Drive in Durham, on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretense. Investigators say he accepted $12,000 for teaching a summer school course in 2011, but no lectures were ever held.

He resigned in August as chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, 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.

An internal investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin revealed that any irregularities were concentrated in Nyang'oro's department and dated to about 1994. Martin found no anomalies outside of that department and no specific link between the scandal and student-athletes.

The State Bureau of investigation spent the last year sifting through documents, including nearly 100,000 emails, to determine whether any criminal charges were warranted.

Julius Nyang'oro in court Uncle says accused professor being made UNC-CH scapegoat

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said that the statute of limitations had already run out on any misdemeanor charges that could have been brought against Nyang'oro, so prosecutors were left with the single felony charge to pursue in the case.

Nyang’oro faces up to 30 months in prison if convicted, although authorities said it's more likely he would be placed on probation.

His uncle, Sichle Sikazwb, said the family believes he is innocent and will continue to stand by him.

"He hasn't done anything wrong," Sikazwb said. "It seems the whole world is going after him as if he was the whole university. He wasn't the whole university; he was just a professor."

Teaching was Nyang'oro's passion, according to his uncle, and UNC has made him a scapegoat for troubles in its athletics program.

"Why aren't they going after other people? You mean he is the only one who has done all the wrong?" Sikazwb said.

Woodall said one more person might be indicted in the case next month.

UNC-Chapel Hill reclaimed the money improperly paid to Nyang'oro through garnishment of his final paycheck, officials said.


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  • sinenomine Dec 4, 2013

    keeter, following my earlier comment about a no-show professor at UNC in the 1960s you intimated that my degree (undergrad 1970, grad 1974) was worthless.

    I wonder if you would be as rude and insulting in person as you are when clothed in anonymity?

    Suffice to say I'll put my education and achievements against whatever you might have anytime you wish.

  • 678devilish Dec 4, 2013


  • IndependentAmerican Dec 4, 2013

    "But, criminal charges? - paulej" Theft by deceipt. He signed up to teach a class in exchange for pay. He didn't teach the class and still took the money. (That's the charge anyway, innocent until proven guilty.) Like a contractor taking your money to reroof and insulate your house. You get the new roof,but no insulation. Contractor 'stole' your money, right?

  • anonymous99 Dec 4, 2013

    "This is why schools always need more taxpayers money,Fraud."

    No, we have top-rate public universities here in NC. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    We should definitely have a discussion about accessibility of higher education, the artificial scarcity education imposed by outdated institutions, the conflicts of interest in private education, the availability of MOOCs and the disruption that might cause to universities, the value of grievance-based curricula like AFAM, and the stratification that the ivory tower both creates and deplores.

    In the end, that might mean spending less... But today we should be focused on spending smarter. NC has got to remain competitive in the long run. We are not going to achieve that by yanking the rug out from under those programs that actually provide value, notwithstanding Liberal Arts Underwater Basket Weaving coursework like AFAM.

  • TeaBagOnLove Dec 4, 2013

    Best of luck to this fool. He will need it!

  • monami Dec 4, 2013

    There may be others, maybe not. To me, what matters is whether he failed to hold class per his agreement with UNC. If he didn't: guilty. But blaming others who may be involved (as well) doesn't relieve him of responsibility for his fraudulent act(s).

    That said, any others who paticipated in similar or related acts should also be prosecuted.

  • Maxxx Dec 4, 2013

    cheaters never win

  • keeter Dec 4, 2013

    "When I was an undergraduate at UNC in the 1960s I had a political science teacher who showed up, maybe, a half dozen times during one spring semester. Talk about worthless, we never got beyond the first chapter of the textbook. I wish I could remember his name so the Orange County DA could bring charges against him as well."

    Good to know that UNC's joke of a degree dates back that far...

  • eastwitch Dec 4, 2013

    This is why schools always need more taxpayers money,Fraud.

  • rayzer Dec 4, 2013

    It has become amusing to observe the habit of reporting this scandal as only involving football players. It is blatantly obvious that the academic scandal started with basketball but only came to light because of football players using social media.

    In 1992 after Duke won another NCAA basketball championship, UNC promoted Julius Nyang'oro to head of its AFAM department. Following this move, 5 members of the 1992 basketball team switched their majors to AFAM. The following season UNC won the national championship. Until recently UNC has used the AFAM program to cheat.