Some UNC-CH faculty question new academic fraud probe

Posted February 25, 2014 5:37 p.m. EST
Updated February 25, 2014 6:55 p.m. EST

— Some faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said Tuesday that the school needs to dig deeper and wider in its latest investigation of academic irregularities to effect change.

UNC President Tom Ross and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt said Friday that they have hired Kenneth Wainstein, a former U.S. Justice Department attorney, to review information uncovered during a State Bureau of Investigation probe of the school's former Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

The department has been linked to courses where no classes met and unauthorized grade changes involving athletes, and former department chairman Julius Nyang'oro was indicted in December on a charge of obtaining property by false pretense. According to the indictment, he was paid $12,000 to teach one of the no-show classes in the summer of 2011.

Jay Smith, a longtime UNC-Chapel Hill history professor who heads the school's Athletic Reform Group, said the new investigation must look beyond the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, saying the scheme likely involved more than Nyang'oro and his former assistant.

"Gosh, this is a lot of wasted time. It’s been four years and five, six, seven reports, and we’re still asking a lot of the same questions," Smith said. "There were two people in that department who were doing shady things with courses, but that’s not a departmental scandal, that’s an administrative scandal. He was an administrator. He worked with administrators."

Offices that deal with student services, advising, registration and records should have recognized "eligibility tricks being pulled," he said.

"I think there are other people who knew what was going on, who understood why it was happening, who facilitated the process along the way," he said. "There had to be a few other individuals who knew."

University leaders haven't said how the latest investigation will be handled or how long it will take.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall has told UNC officials that he would share with Wainstein information the SBI gathered in its investigation.

Lowry Caudill, chairman of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, said the board supports the outside review of SBI evidence.