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Prof 'sickened' by UNC academic scandal

Posted May 10, 2012

 A recently released report highlighting the findings of an internal investigation into the African and Afro-American Studies program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  found widespread misconduct, teaching irregularities, grade changing and even forged signatures.

A recently released report highlighting the findings of an internal investigation into the African and Afro-American Studies program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has triggered strong reaction from faculty and students around the campus.

The nine-month review, prompted by the academic scandal involving former players on the UNC football team, found widespread misconduct, teaching irregularities, grade changing and even forged signatures within the African and Afro-American Studies department from summer 2007 through the 2009 school year. It places the blame for the improprieties on just two people – former department chair Julius Nyang’oro and his now retired assistant Debbie Crowder.

But some on the faculty believe that it is another example of problems in the system.

”I was sickened by it as I think most faculty around the campus were,” said history professor Jay Smith.

“There is this sense that the institutional integrity of UNC is being eroded over time.” 

Smith is quick to point out that these specific concerns can be narrowed to a select couple faculty members. "One of the most disturbing things of this whole sordid affair is that that department has been unforuntately unfairly sullied by this entire story," Smith said. "We know that most of the people, virtually all of the people in that department, are good scholars, good teachers, very responsible citizens.”

But he worries that the problems could go beyond the report.

“We had all this news about a rogue tutor,” Smith explained. “There was a rogue assistant coach, a rogue agent, now, a rogue faculty member and a rogue administrative assistant. That's a lot of rogues."

Professors address recent UNC academic scandal Professors address recent UNC academic scandal

More than half of the students enrolled in the classes in question were athletes, according to Nancy Davis, associate vice chancellor for university relations. 246 of them were football players (36 percent of enrollments); 23 were basketball players (3 percent); and 131 (19 percent) were students who competed in Olympic sports.

Davis pointed out that of the 616 courses offered by the department between summer 2007 and summer 2011, only 54 were in question.

Head basketball coach Roy Williams insisted that the basketball players who took the courses accountable, and did all the work they had been assigned. Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said the review will strengthen academic experiences.

Smith said he wants a review of how athletics and academics intersect – from recruiting to graduation.

"I think it's time we confronted the fact that misbehavior by a handful of individuals is in fact a symptom of a dysfunctional system," Smith said.

Law professor Lissa Broome, the faculty athletics representative, has been involved in several reviews since the NCAA investigation started and said that the situation has been addressed.

"I think that we have looked under, looked in lots of nooks and crannies to try and make the program stronger,” Broome said. “I would be surprised if there if there is anything else lurking out there."

Broome said there are a lot of aspects people may not realize in which academics are prioritized – even in recruiting.

"But based on all this we have gone through, we are constantly trying to improve and make sure that there aren't any unpleasant surprises in the future," Broome said.

As for the other campuses in the university’s system, UNC System President Tom Ross says there is no evidence this is a widespread problem. He does, however, plan to speak with each chancellor and chief academic officer about these issues. The report will likely be discussed in the Board of Governors meeting next month.


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  • 5Rs May 18, 2012

    When the scandal is in sports, you fire the AD. When the scandal is in Academics, you fire - well? Obviously there is mismanagement. It will take some time to determine how much.

    When the scandal is in both, there is a common point.

  • LovemyPirates May 16, 2012

    99.99999% of the academic faculty at colleges and universities are very unhappy with the poor relationship between athletics and academics. They are powerless to do anything because it's all about $$$$.

  • UNCle May 14, 2012

    The UNC professors might be sickened, but evidently not enough to call for a faculty-driven investigation of the entire athletics mess, but especially the classes and majors that men's basketball and football players take. The profs should also be sickened by how quickly the reputation of their place of employment is going down the tubes nationally. They will find it hard to get it back.

  • Karmageddon May 14, 2012

    "is that that department has been unforuntately unfairly sullied by this entire story," Smith said"

    That That? Unforuntately?

  • gswalker51 May 11, 2012

    Just sayin'...not over-the-moon impressed with most UNC-CH grads I've seen on the job. Lots of school pride...lots of taking credit for national championships in basketball...lots of pansy powderblue shirts and frat nerd haircuts...lots of Duke resentment. Again, not exactly getting it done on the job though.

  • piene2 May 11, 2012

    He should be sickened by the entire nations disgusting academic performance.

  • basstrb May 11, 2012

    What do you expect of the Public University System these days. I am not surprised at all.

  • cwood3 May 11, 2012

    Somebody in Chapel Hill and on Jones St. had better be reading these comments. I say that because the credability of the Great University in Chapel Hill is beginning to come to question.

    I'm sure that some higher ups in the administration are beginning to wiggle some. guess what folks, THEY SHOULD BE MORE THAN WIGGLING. Some might ought to be fired for looking the other way and too much and for way too long!! This is absolutely disgusting.

    I go back to a question Dr. Thorpe -from last year-who did not know about $13k IN PARKING TICKETS?? Hummm?? Come on now-this letting things slide has gone on too long.

    For years, NC State was the bottom rung on education and athletics in the system after Jimmy V was fired. Well, I have a good idea that Debbie Yow would fire someone in a skinny minute if this kind of stuff was discovered at State.

    It's time for a General Assembly requested (Bevvie does not have the b...s to ask for this) SBI investigation!! Let heads roll as they may!!

  • lb27608 May 11, 2012

    "Do college professors not get surprise observations of them teaching their classes as we do in high school. I have 4 a year for the last five years as well as all of my co-workers? Just wondering."

    No, generally those kinds of observations don't happen. I taught at the high school level and was subjected to the surprise evaluations, but have only been observed once or twice during the college classes that I've taught intermittently over the past several years.

  • The Fox May 11, 2012

    From the ESPN site: The administrator, Deborah Crowder, worked under Nyang'oro and wouldn't talk with school investigators. UNC found no aberrant courses or unauthorized grade changes after her September 2009 retirement, according to the report.