UNC-CH releases more names of staffers punished in fraud scandal
Posted December 31, 2014
Chapel Hill, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Wednesday released the names of two faculty members punished in the wake of an investigation into academic fraud at the school.
Former faculty chair Jan Boxill, a philosophy professor, was given a termination notice in October but is challenging the move, officials said. Timothy McMillan, a senior lecturer in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, also was given a termination notice in October but decided to resign, effective Wednesday.
Former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein released a 131-page report on Oct. 22 that showed academic advisers steered student-athletes for 18 years toward classes that never met and required only a short paper to pass.
Wainstein's report found Boxill pushed student-athletes to the paper classes and in at least one case even suggested a certain grade for a member of the women's basketball team. The report called McMillan the faculty member with the clearest opportunity to learn about the fake classes, noting that he signed off on grade reports for at least seven courses that he didn't teach.
"It was part of the culture at Carolina. This is how we kept athletes eligible," said former academic adviser Mary Willingham, who publicly criticized the literacy abilities of UNC-Chapel Hill student-athletes and is now suing the university over her subsequent demotion. "Where do you stop, if you're going to start firing people, because so many people were part of the system?"
Willingham said she believes Boxill and McMillan are scapegoats for the university and don't deserve to be fired.
"To just identify a couple of professors and say they need to go, it would be better if they stayed and helped to fix the problem and talk about why they were part of the system," she said.
When the report was released, Chancellor Carol Folt called the no-show classes "an inexcusable betrayal," but she declined to respond to repeated inquiries about who was punished and how, saying it was a matter of "fairness and privacy."
Ten media organizations, including WRAL News parent Capitol Broadcasting Co., sued the university last month under North Carolina's public records law to identify those disciplined in the scandal.
University officials have maintained that the disciplinary actions weren't final – and therefore weren't open to disclosure under the public records law – until the employees had grievance hearings and had exhausted any and all appeals.
UNC-Chapel Hill and the media coalition agreed Tuesday to settle the lawsuit with the university releasing Boxill's and McMillan's names.
Folt said Wednesday that she used a provision in the public records law that allows her to exercise her discretion to release information on Boxill's termination notice in order to maintain the integrity of the university.
She cited in a memo the "extraordinary circumstances underlying the longstanding and intolerable academic irregularities," as well as Boxill's "role as chair of the faculty council during a period of time covered by the report," to justify her decision, even though Boxill, who also was removed as director of the Parr Center for Ethics on campus, has appealed her dismissal.
"While that process is pending, and after extensive reflection and deliberation, disclosing this information relating to Dr. Boxill is necessary to maintaining the level and quality of services Carolina provides as well as our integrity as we continue to move forward," Folt wrote.
The names of the other two staffers UNC-Chapel Hill intended to fire in the wake of Wainstein's report were released earlier.
Last month, UNC-Chapel Hill said Jamie Lee, an academic counselor to football players, had been fired. She was issued a "discontinuation with notice" on Oct. 22 and didn't contest it, so her termination became final on Nov. 21.
On Oct. 23, the day after Wainstein issued his report, Beth Bridger was terminated from her job at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington because of her role in the no-show classes while working as the associate director of academic support at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Under the settlement, the university also said that six other employees – not five as Folt mentioned in October – may face some disciplinary action. Each is going through an individual review process led by Provost James Dean and Vice Chancellor Felicia Washington. University officials will release the names of anyone disciplined when such action is taken.