UNC faculty: Athletic, academic problems not 'malicious'

Although a review shows advisers steering athletes to specific classes, faculty at UNC don't believe their was ill intent behind the moves.

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UNC Department of African and Afro-American Studies
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A day after a faculty panel review by the University of North Carolina was released, other faculty members are speaking out in support of the findings.

Lewis Margolis, an associate professor in Maternal and Child Health, said that the report was ”thoughtful” and took a previous internal review to the next level.

"I give them credit for not ignoring what is going on here,” Margolis said. “We hear. We hear these concerns and we are making a commitment to address them."

According to the review released Thursday, school leaders believe the blame for more than 50 classes that weren't taught to standard lies solely with former African and Afro-American Studies Department Chair Julius Nyang'oro and his former administrative assistant. Both have since retired from the university.

The review says athletes may have been steered to Nyang'oro by staff in the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes. It also says somebody from the African and Afro-American Studies Department likely called those athletic counselors to let them know courses were available.

“I hope not. I believe that they understand their responsibility to support the student and to help them make wise choices, but it is not in their purview to direct students to particular courses," said Senior Associate Dean Bobbi Owen to a Board of Governors member who asked if the academic support staff was steering athletes to particular classes.

One independent study course in question was made up entirely of football players and a former player  – 19 enrollees in all.

Joy Renner, athletics committee chairwoman and associate professor and director in the Department of Allied Health Sciences, does not believe the advisors had ill-natured intentions.

"I don't think there was anything malicious,” Renner said. “I don't think there was any surreptitious types of activities going on. I think it was truly people trying to help our athletes be able to compete on the field and also in the classroom."

Margolis said that she believes these types of issues exist at almost every Division I school and that, while UNC has been made an example, people need to pay attention to the problems within their respective universities.

The report recommends outside experts be brought in to look at how academics and athletics interact. Chancellor Holden Thorp says he is supportive of that recommendation.

The Board of Trustees is also in the process of hiring a firm to review the controls UNC has implemented to make sure this can't happen again.

The findings also present a continued sense of secrecy coming out of the athletics department and the subcommittee’s report calls for more transparency throughout the university. Renner said that must happen if UNC is going to move forward.

"I've not gotten one shred of feeling of someone not being transparent or wanting to get to the bottom of this,” Renner said. “Trust me, is there anyone on this campus that doesn't want this to go away? Things don't go away until you get to the bottom of it, until you know what actually happened and didn't happen."



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