Mediator to take crack at resolving dispute between UNC, Willingham
Posted January 14, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — A lawsuit filed against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by a former academic adviser is headed to mediation.
Mary Willingham, who public criticized the literacy levels of UNC-Chapel Hill athletes amid investigations into academic fraud at the school, filed suit in July, claiming the university retaliated against her for speaking out. She alleged that the terms of her employment were changed in July 2013, including a demoted rank and title and additional job duties that would require "extensive training."
Willingham also claimed that Chancellor Carol Folt, Provost James Dean and Roberta "Bobbi" Owen, former senior associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Arts & Sciences, slandered her by calling her a "liar" and her research into athlete literacy levels a "travesty."
UNC-Chapel Hill lawyers have asked that the lawsuit be dismissed, noting that Willingham resigned at the end of the 2013-14 school year and still hasn't completed the university's grievance and appeals process.
Both sides asked a federal judge on Monday to postpone ruling on any motions in the case so they can meet with a mediator on Feb. 9, saying that they have been trying to resolve the dispute without going to trial.
If no agreement is reached, the lawsuit will move forward, the motion states.
Former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein released a 131-page report in October detailing his investigation into fraudulent grades and coursework at the university. He found that academic counselors steered student-athletes to "irregular" classes within UNC-Chapel Hill's African and Afro-American Studies Department that had no faculty involvement and never met. The fraud went on for 18 years, ending in 2011, and involved 169 athletes whose grades in such classes kept them eligible to compete in athletics.