Board of Governors: UNC scandal 'terrible,' 'embarrassing'

Posted February 7, 2013

— Members of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors heard yet another report Thursday on the academic and athletic scandal that has cast a pall on UNC-Chapel Hill over the past three years.

"It was a terrible scandal," said W. Louis Bissette, the board member who led the panel. "It should never have happened."

Jim Deal agreed. "It is embarrassing. It's inexcusable," he said.

James Deal UNC board at odds over extent of scandal

The panel told the rest of the board that it may never know if athletes were steered to bogus classes, but added that there was no evidence to support a conspiracy between the athletic department and UNC-Chapel Hill's Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

Bissette pointed out the limits of what they could determine. "We are not an investigative body. We are a review panel," he said.

"We found no evidence to support a conclusion that a conspiracy or collusion existed between the athletic department and the academic support program for student athletes on the one hand, and the two complicit former employees in the AFAM department on the other hand. It is, however, reasonable to assume, and this panel believes, that many students, athletes and non-athletes alike, enrolled in these irregular AFAM department courses expecting to receive good grades with very little effort," Bissette said.

A probe led by former Gov. Jim Martin yielded similar findings in December and placed the blame for 14 years of no-show classes, instructors who didn't teach, grades that were changed and faked grade reports on the shoulders of Dr. Julius Nyang’oro, the now-retired head of that department, and his administrator Deborah Crowder.

"It is inconceivable that this was two people that did this," said Burley Mitchell, board member and former chief justice of North Carolina, responded.

"It was clearly also an athletic problem to an extreme," he said, pointing to allegations that academic counselors steered athletes to certain classes.

The panel's report also focused on the length of time the scandal went on, saying it was difficult to understand why no one came forward to try and stop it at any point between 1997 and 2011. 

"It was like the chairman had a fiefdom and nobody ever looked at what the king was doing," Deal said.

The investigation by the Board of Governors was the fifth at UNC since the scandal broke in the summer of 2010. 

Former UNC football player Michael McAdoo spoke out Monday on the matter, saying he and other athletes did receive special treatment in an interview with the New York Times. 

McAdoo said counselors at UNC selected the AFAM studies major for him because it worked around the football team's practice schedule. 

State Bureau of Investigation agents are continuing a criminal investigation of the actions of Nyang’oro and Crowder in consultation with a local prosecutor who wants to know whether the university was defrauded by instructors who collected pay for classes they didn't teach.

Bissette said the board recognizes the credibility blow the scandal has caused for UNC. "We're hoping now that our efforts can shift to ensuring that a scandal of this nature never happens again on one of our campuses," he said.

As a result of the scandal, the panel said Thursday it will make several recommendations to help other UNC System schools to avoid similar issues. 

The group wants schools to:

  • Establish clear requirements for student-athletes to meet with their academic advisors once a year to review programs of study.
  • Review exceptional admissions policies to ensure any student admitted has demonstrated the ability to be academically successful.
  • Create an annual review by a chancellor or other designee of all faculty teaching assignments.
  • Develop a strategic plan to improve faculty engagement in athletics.
  • Develop an electronic system to track suspicious clusters of classes.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • williammjohnston Feb 14, 2013

    Say it is not so!

  • Sherlock Feb 8, 2013

    "It is embarrassing. It's inexcusable," but they allowed it to happen and still allow it. What about chanting from students about a students dead Grandmother at a ball game. This is they type of leaders that come from this school.This school is an embarrassment to the state.

  • superman Feb 8, 2013

    Terrible but they do nothing.

  • superman Feb 8, 2013

    If in fact things were and are so bad at UNC why did the board express confidence in Thorp and even ask him to reconsider his resignation? Why is he still on the sinking ship.

  • Not_Time_Yet Feb 8, 2013

    And in back room over martinis, "Oops, we got caught, time for some damage control and blame others"

  • newtonatlaw1 Feb 8, 2013

    So, let me get this right: It is ok to steer students who should not have been admitted bc of inadequate qualifications in the first place to these "fake" classes so a select group can maintain sufficient GPA to stay in school (for which I presume federal funding relies), but it is NOT ok to steer the subset of those students who are athletes to the "fake" classes to maintain also athletic eligibility? You guys are asking the wrong question: What demographic of students DID benefit by having these "fake" classes, and did the University accept federal money for admitting and keeping them in school, admitted - let us be clear - over interested AND qualified students? THAT is the scandal, albeit one no-one wants to report on, IMHO. Deb Newton, Attorney

  • SMAPAEA Feb 8, 2013

    Athletics at all higher educational institutions always get favors. Nobody walked me to class everyday...but when I was teaching I sure had football players and basketball players that got walked to my class, and then escorted to the next. The first priority should be to education, then athletics. And our governor is worried about Liberal Arts.

  • censorbait Feb 8, 2013

    I bet that State and ECU are sweating a bit right now. Don't think for a moment that "jock accomodation" does not go on at universities everywhere.

  • aetius476 Feb 8, 2013

    Completely eliminate the fraudulent AFAM department and its "faculty", and shift the resources to real education.

    You did not hear this in the report....

  • Hill55 Feb 8, 2013

    I would like to know what fixes were made to the report to run cover for ole Royvso he didn't have to return those NCAA trophies.