Panel investigating UNC academics to meet Thursday

Posted October 11, 2012 8:06 a.m. EDT
Updated October 11, 2012 9:31 a.m. EDT

— A panel investigating possible academic fraud at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Thursday will meet Thursday and could hear from former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin about his independent investigation into the university's African and Afro-American studies department. 

Appointed by Tom Ross, the academic review panel will make a full report of its findings to the North Carolina Board of Governors. Martin and a firm hired by the university and appointed by Chancellor Holden Thorp will report its findings to the academic review panel. 

So far, irregularities have been found in 54 African and Afro-American classes – where no-show or questionable courses appear to have benefited athletes, especially the UNC football team. After UNC released a report on those classes, WRAL News found irregularities with independent study courses within the program, most of which were tied to former department chair Julius Nyang’oro.

In August, former UNC football star Julius Peppers' college transcript appeared online. It showed grades from the African and Afro-American studies department, which appear to have kept Peppers eligible as a student. He has denied any academic wrong-doing.

Martin and his team set out to review more departments and all athletic programs at UNC and submit a full report by the middle of the month, but new details about the panel's findings weren't expected at Thursday's meeting. 

Martin said in August that Chancellor Holden Thorp, who announced his resignation last month, told him everything is fair game in the investigation -- no restrictions, no limits.

When he announced his resignation Sept. 17, Thorp said he was doing what he felt was best for the university.

"This wasn't an easy decision personally, but when I thought about the university and how important it's been to me, to North Carolinians and to hundreds of thousands of alumni, my answers became clear."

UNC President Tom Ross said in September that the resignation announcement will allow Thorp to devote his attention to making sure that the problems identified on campus have been corrected and that the new policies, procedures and safeguards that have been implemented to prevent similar issues in the future are adequate and represent best practices. 

The school has paid nearly $600,000 for legal and public relations advice since the NCAA initiated an investigation tied to the Tar Heel football team more than two years ago.

Because of misdeeds tied to academic fraud and players accepting impermissible benefits, 14 UNC football players missed some or all of the 2010 season. The violations ultimately cost head coach Butch Davis his job and led Dick Baddour to step away from his athletic director’s position.

The football team was forced to forfeit all wins from the 2008 and 2009 seasons, is serving three years on probation, is banned from postseason play in 2012 and saw a reduction of 15 scholarships over three seasons.