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Online transcript could bring feds down on UNC

Posted August 14, 2012

— 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. UNC Academics Investigation Archive: UNC investigation

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.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • driverkid3 Aug 16, 2012

    Blah blah::::Being able to play sports is just as important as an academic degree.

    It may be, BUT a solid education will get you a lot further than the sports will. Get hurt bad dnough and oyu are out of the game forever, and you need something to fall back on. That education is the most important thing you can have, and you need to grab for that with all your might. But it HAS to be more than what a child could pass with ease, that just don't cut it.

  • driverkid3 Aug 16, 2012

    "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?”

    You DON'T! Universities are NOT a training camp for athletes. They are supposed tobe there for an education. If the athletes are not capable of getting that EDUCATION for whatever reason, they don't need to be there taking up space another person could/would use to get the education.

  • sunshine1040 Aug 15, 2012

    Lets turn colleges and university's back into instutitions for higher learning.

  • bobmorgan129 Aug 15, 2012

    Pepper's agent (Carey) taught African and Afro-American Studies at UNC during his time as an 'academic counselor'. He returned to UNC to teach - “Foundations of Black Education” – in the summer of 2011. Julius Nyang’oro, chairman of the AFAM department, was criticized for inviting a sports agent to teach at a time when the UNC program was under NCAA investigation.

  • bobmorgan129 Aug 15, 2012

    Tyler Hansbrough - UNC BBall Player - on learning Swahili at UNC - "Maybe I'll use the language on a trip to Africa someday....there's no reason I chose Swahili other than that I thought it would be cool. I enjoy it." http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/basketball/ncaa/specials/ncaa_tourney/2007/03/14/first.person0319/

  • gotsomesense Aug 15, 2012

    Folks, I don't think Smith meant that they should be held to lower standards at all, I think he was just saying that it was ridiculous for anybody to think that these athletes can participate in their sport as well as attend classes full-time. I think he was just basically saying "how could anybody think this arrangement could possibly be legitimate" in the first place. I think he was just disgusted that folks really thought these athletes were Superman - that somebody had not already investigated this ridiculous situation before now, hence his allegations of systemic problems.

    Perhaps players should be given part-time schedules, as many full-time workers do, and then go to school another two years after their eligibility runs out to finish their degrees. They could serve as coaches, mentors, recruiters, etc., while finishing their last two years...just a thought.

  • tran Aug 15, 2012

    "Carolina needs to clean up it's act quickly before the NCAA rains down on their picnic and pronounces the death penalty!!"

    Before? The NCAA should put the quietus on Carolina for what they've already done. What more do they need to do to qualify for the "death penalty"? They've done just about every bad thing a school could do in order to gain a competitive advantage. Those last couple titles are ill gotten gains. And the whole time we've been subject to all the sanctimonious piety of how they do things the right way, the Carolina Way.

    No, they've already earned the "death penalty". The question is why hasn't the punishment been administered.

  • ACCInsider Aug 15, 2012

    McLovin- Chapel Hill's "minimum" GPA/SAT admission requirements for Fall 2012 is 2.3 GPA, 750 SAT and increases in Fall 2013 to 2.5 GPA, 800 SAT. Furthermore, starting this fall UNC has shifted their admissions to The Common Application which evaluates applicants holistically vs mainly GPA / test scores. Holistic meaning a student's special talents and interests.

    As UNC stated in their undergrad bullentin: "there is no formula for admission, there is no list of qualities or characteristics that every applicant must present"

  • jennmartin82 Aug 15, 2012

    And the hits keep coming...coming! Love it!

  • Lamborghini Mercy Aug 15, 2012

    McLovin - Johnny can have a 3.25 and 1300 on his SAT and still not get into UNC or Duke, but George who happens to be a star basketball recruit qualifies even though he has a 2.75 and a 1100 on his SAT.

    Yeah but the reality is what brings in the "profit" to schools like UNC is sports. The quality of a sound education went down the drain several years ago, everything these days are overshadowed by entertainment.