Chapel Hill, N.C. — In a sharply worded column that appeared online Tuesday, Republican State Sen. Thom Goolsby called for a criminal probe of the academic scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the resignation of Board of Trustees.
In the piece, posted on carolinacolumns.com, Goolsby wrote “the UNC academic fraud scandal is like a pesky staph infection that just won’t go away for university officials – nor should it.
“It is past time for a criminal investigation into these fraudulent activities,” added Goolsby, R-New Hanover. “For far too long, academic scandals have been treated with the soft glove approach. The local district attorney’s office should begin an immediate criminal probe. If the DA does not wish to handle this matter, he should request that the Attorney General appoint a Special Prosecutor to handle this case.”
An NCAA investigation into the football program revealed that academic assistance to student-athletes at UNC went far beyond ethical conduct and occurrences of plagiarism and no-show classes were commonplace. Through both the NCAA investigation and other public records requests by a coalition of media outlets, including WRAL News, the depth of the academic improprieties has continued to grow.
In response to Goolsby's column, school officials said Tuesday that they are cooperating with three separate reviews of the school's policy. State Bureau of Investigation officials, former Gov. Jim Martin and the UNC System Board of Governors are looking into the school's academic practices.
Goolsby, an attorney in private practice and adjunct law professor at Campbell University, also derided the students and criticized the flagship school. He serves on legislative committees for higher education as well as Appropriations on Justice and Public Safety.
“These student-athletes (the term “student” is used lightly here) played in the all-important category of revenue-producing sports,” he wrote. “It’s the gladiators who bring crowds to the arena and it should surprise no one that schools will do whatever it takes to field the best possible team. What is shameful is the continued smokescreen produced by the UNC administration around this scandal.”
In August, UNC appointed Martin to lead an internal investigation into academic fraud, tasking him to pinpoint the origins and depth of the scandalous activity. Meanwhile, the NCAA has not commented on the case other than saying additional sanctions are a possibility.
The initial NCAA probe into the university sought to uncover players’ relationships with agents and their receiving of impermissible benefits. In all, 14 players were forced to miss playing time during the 2012 season and a few were deemed permanently ineligible to participate further in collegiate athletics for their acceptance of money, gifts and trips.
The investigation found that former player Michael McAdoo received impermissible academic help from a tutor, and subsequent documents uncovered a plagiarized paper. McAdoo was one of the players ruled ineligible and has since moved on to play in the NFL.
Goolsby said that the university is using Gov. Martin’s investigation as a way to avoid answering questions brought forth by the public and the media, noting that Chancellor Holden Thorp has refused to talk about the subject since the internal probe was launched.
Thorp announced in September he will be resigning from his position as chancellor and return to teaching chemistry and focus on his research. The NCAA sanctions against the football team have also led to change with multiple athletic positions including a new director of athletics and head football coach.
In his column, Goolsby also recommended the Board of Governors ask for the resignations of current Board of Trustees members, noting "they have shown little willingness to get to the truth of this scandal and cure the infection."
“The reputation of the state’s flagship university is at stake and someone must take this matter seriously,” Goolsby wrote. “Any prosecutor worth his salt would turn detectives loose on staff and administrators involved in the fraud and subsequent cover-up.”