UNC's academic reputation continues taking hits

Posted June 12, 2012

— Two years after allegations of academic misconduct involving the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill football program surfaced, the school is still struggling to keep its academic reputation from being tarnished.

The UNC Board of Governors is scheduled to discuss this week a review of the African and Afro-American Studies program at UNC-Chapel Hill that found 54 classes had little or no indication of instruction and at least 10 cases of unauthorized grade changes for students who didn't do all the work.

Julius Nyang'oro resigned last August as chairman of the department amid the investigation into academic fraud involving Tar Heel football players. He will retire from the university effective July 1.

Chancellor Holden Thorp last week asked Nyang'oro to repay $12,000 for teaching a 2011 summer course as an independent study rather than a lecture.

"I think there is something about the whole process that resembles a political scandal in that there's a kind of drip, drip, drip of information," history professor Lloyd Kramer said Tuesday. "It seems like the whole story is out, and then some other development comes out."

Kramer said he worries about the perception that faculty members don't take their jobs seriously, which he said is far from true.

"A few egregious errors and mistakes in this situation are giving the impression that UNC faculty are not doing their job and that UNC students are given a free pass through the system," he said.

Wade Hargrove, chairman of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, said the university continues to investigate any academic irregularities and would hold people accountable.

“This is indeed a sad chapter in the life of the university. The challenge is to resolve the problem and make sure procedures are in place to prevent it from happening again,” Hargrove said.

Julius Nyang'oro Cleaning up questions surrounding UNC classes will take time

UNC trustee Don Curtis called the situation with Nyang'oro's department "an embarrassment," but added that it appears to involve only one faculty member.

"I think the rest of the faculty and administration have reacted in a way to try their best to make sure this doesn’t happen again," Curtis said.

Trustees and members of the Board of Governors expressed confidence in Thorp's ability to handle the problem, and they said they hope that will end questions about the university's academic reputation.

"We all should be concerned about the impact the continuing issues and the coverage of those issues are having on the reputation of UNC-CH. For any person or institution, reputation is important and anything that tarnishes that reputation should be of concern," Board of Governors member Brad Wilson said.

Joe Templeton, former chairman of the Faculty Council at UNC-Chapel Hill, said he doesn't think people across the country are as focused on the fallout from internal and NCAA investigations of the school as people in North Carolina are.

"I think the reputation of UNC is intact," said Templeton, a professor of chemistry. "We've been here for a couple of hundred years. We've had ups and downs. So, I try to keep that big picture in mind as much as I can."

Faculty members said they appreciate the systematic way the administration has handled the issues, even if it seems frustrating to people looking for a quick solution.

"The investigation of this process needs to move forward quickly but exhaustively so that there are no stones left unturned," Kramer said.

"I think you have to be careful not to rush to judgment," Templeton said, adding that "it will be nice when the final chapter is closed.


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  • kermit60 Jun 14, 2012

    All this trouble and he recieves virtually no punishment. He should have been fired with loss of pay and benefits, including any retirement. Hey,but the school is seriously correcting the problem.

  • tdouble232323 Jun 13, 2012

    The legitamcy of the AFAM department certainly needs to be called into question. Why isn't local media looking at that angle? This guy was the head and founder of the department. The department has devalued the education of the entire UNC system.

  • onoudont Jun 13, 2012

    edlmc: I think you're on to something but it won't be just UNC that is affected by any crackdown on athletics/academics. As long as schools admit elite athletes as exceptions to their normal admission standards, the die is cast. Most of those student athletes need special academic help. The danger is there in all major football and basketball schools.

  • cwood3 Jun 13, 2012

    The Gooch-yup you missed several rogues. Chancellor Thorpe who is squashing as much info as he can. The Board-who is also covering up all the can to protect the "flagship" of the University System. The Governor-who is letting all of this slide under the radar!! That's 3 rogues you missed.

    What we have is several failures. We have failures of integrity and intellectual honesty. We have failures of leadership! We have failures of covering one's a..!!! Thorpe has not even covered his a.. well!!!

    Attorney General Cooper, Senator Berger, Speaker Tillis-it's time for you guys to show leadership and call for an all out investigation. When there is this much smoke, I would bet every card in my hand that there is fire!!!

  • 42ITUS Jun 13, 2012

    Holding people accountable means firing them. They fired the football coach, why not the "professor?"

  • cwood3 Jun 13, 2012

    Stevemoore-isn't the University of North Carolina part of the government??? I think yes. Chancellor Thorpe needs to turn this over to the Attorney General's office for further action.

    This clown needs to be handed his head on a platter for taking advantage of the system-taking advantage of his position. If we do that in private industry, we get fired!!

    Somewhere in the mix, this professor will say he's special and gets special rights and passes!! WATCH!!

  • hp277 Jun 13, 2012

    Chancellor Holden Thorp needs to show that the buck stops with him - and resign. The university has endured enough embarrassment under his 'leadership.' It's time for him to go.

  • edlmc Jun 13, 2012

    why do you think Henson, Barnes, Marshall are leaving....cant get by on those classes anymore. If they start cracking down, it will hurt the Athletics at the Flag Ship

  • Yankee AirPirate Jun 13, 2012

    The only way the University can restore some level of public trust is by inviting a free and independent investigation of this mess. The internal investigations are becoming a joke at the expense of our reputation. The BOT and chancellor need to step out of the way and get this mess fixed.
    Get to the bottom of this mess and get the negative press off the air, in print, and over the web. A handful of miscreants are making the whole University look like something from the SEC.

  • The Gooch Jun 13, 2012

    "Seriously? We are suppose to think that only one faculty member is involved?" -

    Exactly. We're all being asked to believe that Prof Nyang'oro, for some strange personal reason, decided out of the blue to create a bunch of fake classes for athletes. Even after the N&O found that academic advisers steered 18 football players to a fake class created by Nyang'oro 2-3 days before summer enrollment ended, we're still being fed a line that only 1 "rogue" is at fault. I know UNC folks think they're smarter than everyone else, but do they really think the general public is that stupid?