Local News

UNC Board of Trustees briefed on fallout from academic scandal

Posted May 24, 2012 2:20 p.m. EDT
Updated May 24, 2012 6:22 p.m. EDT

Trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill heard from school leaders Thursday about their plans to prevent a recurrence of the type of academic misconduct that led to wholesale changes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

Chancellor Holden Thorp explained the university's actions since allegations of plagiarism by a former football player a year ago put the department in the spotlight.

Thorp said recent changes, including the departure of the department chairman and the solicitation of help from the State Bureau of Investigation, send a strong message that the university is taking decisive action.

An internal UNC investigation of department courses between summer session 2007 and fall 2011 found unauthorized grades, forged signatures and courses where work was assigned and grades issued with little contact between professors and students.

The university authorized the probe after published reports showed apparent plagiarism and other discrepancies on a course paper written by former Tar Heels football player Michael McAdoo. The report linked professor Julius Nyang’oro, then department chair in the African and Afro-American Studies program, to 43 courses that "were either aberrant or were taught irregularly."

"All people involved are no longer with the university," Thorp told the trustees Thursday.

Nyang’oro resigned his chairmanship last August, immediately before the university began its investigation. He will retire completely effective July 1.  A long-time department administrator, Debbie Crowder, retired in fall 2009.

The university has since reviewed all courses in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and all independent study courses across the Chapel Hill campus. A review of all departments in the College of Arts & Sciences raised no additional red flags, Dean Karen Gil told the trustees. 

Gil noted new standards for syllabi and independent study courses, including a limit on how many independent study students each professor could supervise in each semester.

"The one-on-one experience with a faculty member in independent study is a valuable one," Gil said.