Education

UNC president pledges to do more to prevent academic fraud

Posted October 24, 2014
Updated October 25, 2014

University of North Carolina System President Tom Ross addresses the UNC Board of Governors on Oct. 24, 2014.
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— Days after an outside investigation revealed the breadth of academic fraud at the University of North Carolina system's flagship university, UNC President Tom Ross assured leaders that "we will do more" to prevent future cases in the 16-campus network.

"Protecting the academic integrity of our public university must be paramount, and we must do now all we can to be absolutely certain that nothing like this ever happens again," Ross said Friday morning in an address to the UNC Board of Governors.

A 131-page report by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein into fraudulent grades and coursework found academic counselors, for 18 years, 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 lasted until 2011 and involved 169 athletes whose grades in such classes kept them eligible to compete in UNC athletics.

Lack of oversight was one of the biggest problems Wainstein found in his investigation.

"I will be asking our staff here at General Administration, as well as the chancellors, to identify additional policies and regulations that might be needed to foster and encourage compliance ethics and integrity as a culture both in athletics and academics throughout our university system," Ross said.

When appropriate, he added, the system will closely work with universities to develop and adopt any necessary system-level policies and changes.

Ross said the week has been "hard and humbling " and reminded the Board of Governors that "the misguided individuals who carried out these terrible acts are not representative" of UNC-Chapel Hill or any other campuses within the system.

Dozens of UNC-Chapel Hill administrators, faculty, staff and students were affected by the scandal:

  • Chancellor Holden Thorp resigned in 2013.
  • Athletic Director Dick Baddour retired, and Associate Athletic Director John Blanchard later left as well.
  • Robert Mercer, the director of the Academic Support Program, was quietly moved out of his job.
  • Football coach Butch Davis was fired, and several assistant coaches lost their jobs.
  • Thirteen football players were suspended for at least part of the 2010 season. The NCAA later declared two ineligible, and UNC kicked a third off the team.
  • Julius Nyang’oro resigned as chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. He was later charged with fraud, but the charge was dismissed because of his cooperation with Wainstein’s investigation.
  • Former tutor Jennifer Wiley Thompson faced charges for her ties to a sports agent, but those charges were likewise dropped because of her cooperation with the investigation.
  • Academic adviser Mary Willingham, who voiced concerns over illiterate student-athletes, resigned after UNC publicly disputed her claims.

Nine UNC-Chapel Hill employees, who haven’t been identified, were terminated or disciplined as a result of Wainstein's investigation, and Ross said those under disciplinary review could lose their jobs.

23 Comments

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  • vply2000 Oct 24, 2014

    2 words: Pell Grants.

  • ncpilot2 Oct 24, 2014

    Why do they only respond when the story hits the media? Anyone who believes the hierarchy at UNC was in the dark about this practice is living in land of fantasy and dreams.

  • tran Oct 24, 2014

    The BOG has blown yet another opportunity to do the right thing. Instead, they're trying to spread the blame.

  • Mary Zulch Oct 24, 2014
    user avatar

    UNC was all wrong. They knew and continued to place these athletes...who by most standards are not worthy of a taxpayer financed scholarship. i want them off the teams and I want my money back...paid for by the people who knew and let this slide. They violated rules...both the students and the coaches. PAY THIS STATE BACK...and dump the students who could not even pass as a 3rd grader. I know I have a better use of my tax money than these people. Just sickening.

  • Dana McCall Oct 24, 2014
    user avatar

    Headline on RSS feed for this article is: "UNC president on academic fraud: 'We will do more'

    Hilarious.

  • tran Oct 24, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Do I think bogus curriculums, phony courses and no show classes go on at other schools? Well maybe at Kansas, where this solution for keeping athletes eligible was pioneered.

    This is a UNC Chapel Hill problem, not a UNC system problem. The BOG is part of the problem. They failed to act as the academic fraud was being revealed. Now they want to fix everybody else. They ought to be fired too.

    Swofford is unfit to lead the ACC. If the BOG had any integrity, they would demand his resignation.

  • 50s Child Oct 24, 2014

    But they say that EVERY time they get caught cheating and lying.

  • Dana McCall Oct 24, 2014
    user avatar

    How about releasing numbers about the gender and race distributions of those who got hours from these sham classes?

  • glarg Oct 24, 2014

    "prevent"?

    They are the ones who perpetrated the whole thing.
    UNC-CH set up the bogus department. Made 'paper-only' classes and then funneled students into them.

    Oh and then covered up and tried to blame the whistlerblower.

    They act like this is something the players came up with.

  • solarcableguy Oct 24, 2014

    The whole athletics thing at colleges these days is pathetic. I have witnessed first hand preferential treatment of athletes and other "favorites" in schools all my life. It will never go away because our society is too accepting of it and values "celebrity" way too much.

    They should never allow students into colleges if they can not cut it academically. If the pros want them developed then let them form better minor league systems.

    Attendance will not suffer. I see high school games packed all the time regardless of the talent. Don't underestimate school spirit. Its time we start letting only real student athletes have scholarships and play at the college level instead of carrying a student that can't hack it academically and is nothing more than a pro prospect masquerading as a student for monetary gain of the school.

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