Chapel Hill, N.C. — When reports surfaced Monday that a transcript posted on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill website may be that of former student-athlete Julius Peppers, it prompted further questions about the validity classes offered by the African and Afro-American Studies Department. The simple fact that the transcript appeared online could be a violation of federal law.
UNC has not confirmed or denied the online transcript that had Peppers’ name on it was in fact authentic but were looking into the validity of it and are seeking answers to how it may have ended up on the website.
The document showed four independent studies in the African and Afro-American Studies Department -- including the same one three times. The grades achieved in those classes would have kept the student eligible for participation in sports.
According to a U.S. Department of Education official, the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act “protects the education record of the student who is or has been in attendance at the school.” The official said it makes no difference whether the student is current or former.
“Under FERPA, a consent for disclosure of education records must be signed and dated and must specify the records that may be disclosed; state the purpose of the disclosure; and identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure may be made,” the official said in a statement. “If a student contacts this office alleging that his or her rights under FERPA had been violated, we may open an investigation.”
An institution that violates FERPA could lose federal funding.
The transcript is the latest blow to the African and Afro-American Studies Department, which has been the focus of investigations by the university system since an NCAA investigation brought to light allegations that athletes got special considerations – help with classwork, no-show classes and were over-enrolled in independent studies.
In May, UNC released an internal report citing problems with 54 courses in the department during a four-year period, most centered around former department chair Julius Nyang’oro. That report was also given to the NCAA. Earlier in August, WRAL Investigates discovered even more independent study courses not listed in the report -- one section was made up entirely of football and men's basketball players.
“I have come to the conclusion the problem is a systemic one,” said UNC history professor Jay Smith while joining Adam and Joe on 99.9 The Fan ESPN Radio Tuesday. “It is not an athletic or academic one. It is a systemic problem across the campus. Pinning it on entirely on athletics is wrong and pinning it on a couple individuals is wrong.”
On Tuesday, UNC told WRAL that the university investigation has not ended.
"The university is continuing this investigation,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Wade Hargrove. “The investigation is not over, and when there is factual information to disclose it will be disclosed."
A UNC Board of Governors panel is also looking into the academic issues of the department and Chancellor Holden Thorp has supported a third-party review at the suggestion of a faculty subcommittee.
Smith insisted that regardless of the findings to any of the investigations, the faculty is concerned and proper administrators need to take accountability. He also added that students and student-athletes cannot realistically be held to the same standards at any university.
“I think it is well-nigh impossible to have naturally competitive football and basketball teams and expect those students to behave like everyone else in the classroom,” Smith said. “It’s not realistic. It’s not right to expect these students to put in 40-50 hours of work into their sports each week and expect them to carry the same workload as other students. It’s just absurd. How can you take the marginal student that has been recruited to the university for his athletic talents and put him down in a classroom and expect them to perform at the same level as the other students?”
UNC did not answer additional questions Tuesday about the transcript or why it was on the school's website. A U.S. Department of Education official said that a student would have to complain to the department if they believe FERPA has been violated and often times a first complaint would result in a warning to the institution.
Multiple calls to Peppers and his agent in the last two days by WRAL News have gone unanswered.