UNC president: Lighten load for freshmen student-athletes
Posted March 19, 2014
Chapel Hill, N.C. — University of North Carolina President Tom Ross says easing the transition to college for student-athletes could help improve their academic performance.
Ross spoke this week with the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an independent panel that has worked for two decades to reform college sports. He said lightening the course work for first-year student-athletes – and extending their scholarships to give them more time to graduate – could help them better balance the competing demands of academics and athletics and make them more successful in school.
UNC-Chapel Hill has endured in recent years an NCAA investigation into improper benefits to athletes and internal probes into academic fraud in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Ross said those scandals didn't come up during the Knight Commission meeting, but he contends that learning from those mistakes must be part of reform.
Administrators have implemented new policies and procedures to prevent further abuse, and Ross said UNC-Chapel Hill continues to have a solid reputation nationally. Student applications and research grants are up in the past few years.
"I think most people have kept perspective about this," he said. "It's a terrible, terrible situation that has happened, but it's not a widespread, university-wide kind of situation."
The UNC Board of Governors has launched a new academic investigation, led by former U.S. Justice Department investigator Kenneth Wainstein. Ross said Wainstein will be able to use information gathered during a State Bureau of Investigation probe of the academic fraud to dig deeper than previous internal reviews have been able to go.
"It will be my guess that he finds it out through people that he's been able to talk to that we were not able to talk to as a result of their unwillingness to talk," Ross said. "We've just got to do everything possible, No. 1, to understand the facts and, No. 2, to act on them and make sure this university moves forward."
There's no time or cost limit to Wainstein's investigation, he said.