UNC president pledges to do more to prevent academic fraud
Posted October 24, 2014
Updated October 25, 2014
Chapel Hill, N.C. — 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.