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UNC report reveals widespread problems in Afro-Studies department

Posted May 4, 2012 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 5, 2012 12:58 p.m. EDT

A nine-month internal investigation into the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed unauthorized grades, forged signatures and other irregularities according to a 10-page report released Friday.

“While presenting this report in as careful and impartial a manner as possible, we cannot conclude without emphasizing the acute dismay that we, as UNC-Chapel Hill faculty felt as we uncovered the practices summarized here,” reads the report compiled by Jonathan Hartlyn, senior associate dean for social sciences and global programs, and William Andrews, senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities. “… the unprofessional or unethical actions noted in this report risk damaging the professional reputations of the faculty in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies as a whole.”

The internal investigation began in September 2011 following published reports that claimed plagiarism and other discrepancies on a course paper written by former Tar Heels football player Michael McAdoo. The paper, submitted to professor Julius Nyang’oro, was revealed to be largely reproduced from other sources.

According to the report, which covered courses from the start of the summer session in 2007 to the end of the summer session in 2011, 43 taught Nyang’oro "were either aberrant or were taught irregularly." Those courses showed that work was assigned and grades issued, but there was little contact between professor and students. Two other classes led by Nyang’oro may have been taught irregularly.

Between 2007 and 2009, grades for 59 students in nine courses were submitted to the registrar with forged signatures of professors who said they never taught the course. During that same span, “several faculty members” stated that there were unauthorized grade changes and they were not aware of who authorized the adjustments.

Long-time African and Afro-American Studies administrator Debbie Crowder retired in the fall of 2009. There were no reports of unauthorized grade changes in the department following the second summer session of 2009.

Nyang’oro, who had held the position of department chair in the African and Afro-American Studies program, resigned from that position in August. According to the report, Nyang’oro will retire effective July 1.

The report states that Nyang’oro and Crowder are the only two individuals who are directly linked to the irregular courses and grades. It also provides future recommendations to the department that include the implementation of several types of oversight, monitoring and approval procedures.

A second report released Friday by an independent study task force further outlines best practices for how professors should handle independent study courses.

“As a result of these reviews and follow-up actions, the policies of the department and the College have been strengthened to ensure consistent standards for academic excellence and integrity,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Karen Gil.

McAdoo was one of seven players forced to sit out all of the 2010 football season while the NCAA investigated the Tar Heel football program. The NCAA ruled McAdoo ineligible for receiving improper assistance from tutor Jennifer Wiley on multiple assignments across several academic terms. In July of 2011, McAdoo filed a lawsuit against both UNC and the NCAA seeking reinstatement to the team. That lawsuit was dismissed in November.

Archive: UNC football investigation

McAdoo has since left UNC and signed last season with the Baltimore Ravens for the league minimum of $270,000.