UNC officials: Willingham lawsuit should be tossed

Posted December 29, 2014

Mary Willingham

— Three administrators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Mary Willingham, a former academic adviser who public criticized literacy levels of UNC athletes amid investigations into academic fraud at the school.

Willingham filed suit in July against the university, claiming the school retaliated against her for speaking out by altering the terms of her employment in July 2013, including a demoted rank and title and additional job duties that would require "extensive training."

She also alleged in an amended lawsuit that Chancellor Carol Folt, Provost James Dean and Roberta "Bobbi" Owen, former senior associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Arts & Sciences, slandered her by calling her a "liar" and research into athlete literacy levels a "travesty."

The motion to dismiss Folt, Dean and Owen as defendants notes that Willingham resigned from UNC-Chapel Hill at the end of the 2013-14 school year and maintains the lawsuit is improper because Willingham didn't complete the university grievance process and exhaust all appeals before turning to the court for damages.

"Plaintiff’s amended complaint is an improper attempt to obtain damages for the loss of a job she chose to quit," the motion states.

The three officials also are protected by immunity from her claims for actions they took in their official roles, according to the motion.

UNC-Chapel Hill lawyers asked in August for Willingham's lawsuit to be dismissed against the university.

Former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein released a 131-page report in October detailing his investigation into fraudulent grades and coursework at the university. He found that academic counselors steered student-athletes to "irregular" classes within UNC-Chapel Hill's African and Afro-American Studies Department that had no faculty involvement and never met. The fraud went on for 18 years, ending in 2011, and involved 169 athletes whose grades in such classes kept them eligible to compete in athletics.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Jump1 Jan 5, 2015

    Should go to court to expose the problems with the university.

  • lovebelle99 Dec 30, 2014

    This better not be dismissed by these liberal cover up artists!! excellent job Mary Willingham for standing up against the liberal corruption hopefully more will.

  • vile garbage Dec 30, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Once again "I am a 3 time graduate".

  • MaxD Dec 30, 2014

    View quoted thread

    The Carolina Way*

  • Terry Watts Dec 29, 2014
    user avatar

    What a great lesson to teach to students: don't follow the rules, cheat to win, get those that call you out on it, and then get your lawyers to cover it all up. Great job university of nefarious cheaters.

  • NCAFbrat Dec 29, 2014

    those who 'graduated' with these faux courses on their transcripts should be required to take the necessary courses to retain their degrees or lose them.

  • Objective Scientist Dec 29, 2014

    I do NOT want to see this lawsuit dismissed. I'm not an attorney, but IMO I see no grounds for dismissal. Additionally, I would LOVE to see this "play out" in a court room with both Willingham and UNC administrators testifying under oath! Everything about this horrid mess needs, desparately needs, to "see the light of day". And NO... I am not an ABCer! I am a 3 time graduate of UNC-CH... with neither an AFAM nor a "paper class" of anytime on my transcript. I consider the integrity and value of my degrees to be 100% sound... "good as gold"!

  • Karen Byrd Dec 29, 2014
    user avatar

    Seems to me she was right on with what she was saying. You'd think the University would rather settle than drag themselves through more embarrassment.

  • vply2000 Dec 29, 2014

    Who is afraid of discovery?

  • dh1964 Dec 29, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I'm not sure I understand why students who actually took courses should be compensated for getting exactly what they paid for.

    This "tainted degree" idea is a little overblown, don't you think? The only tainted degrees are those held by people who took the bogus AfAm paper classes.