Former UNC-CH tutor ‘had horrible lies written about her,’ attorney says

ablythe@newsobserver.comMarch 15, 2012 

The former UNC-Chapel Hill tutor who figured prominently in NCAA infractions found within the Tar Heel football program never talked with investigators, but she has been much talked about for the past 20 months.

Now her attorney is speaking out, saying Jennifer Wiley, known in the NCAA infractions report only as “the former tutor,” is a “deeply religious” and “big-hearted” young woman who has been much vilified on Internet chat boards, and wrongly so.

“She had horrible lies written about her,” said Joseph B. Cheshire V, the Raleigh lawyer who represented the 24-year-old teacher.

Wiley, who declined to speak with NCAA investigators and to talk with UNC-CH administrators, assisted several players with their school work, Cheshire said, in ways that placed her “sometimes out of bounds without even knowing she was, but yes, occasionally just out of bounds.”

Since then, she has been a teacher, but her ties to the Tar Heel football program’s NCAA problems have posed employment challenges, Cheshire said. In September 2011, she resigned from Jeffreys Grove Elementary School in Raleigh after a little more than a month on the job. Cheshire said she quit because parents complained she was “the UNC tutor.”

Cheshire, afflicted with a bad case of laryngitis, responded by email to questions this week about Wiley. After her father sought his counsel, Cheshire agreed to advise Wiley at no charge, he said, because he believed in her and was sickened by “the extent people would go to destroy her life for their own sales, amusement, or simple irrational hatred for one university.”

‘Misled and used’

He batted back any contentions that Butch Davis, the Tar Heel football coach fired amid the investigation, had any idea Wiley helped players with homework outside the tutoring center. She worked as a tutor for Davis’ son, Cheshire said, but has not worked for them since the questions arose.

Cheshire also knocked down Internet rumors about the extent of Wiley’s relationship with one player, saying she was “misled and used by one student-athlete who became her friend,” but there was nothing sexual or physical between the two.

Wiley broke convoluted and arcane NCAA rules, Cheshire said, but her efforts to help were no different from what “thousands of friends, family fraternity members, suite mates, girl or boyfriends of students” routinely do for students not affiliated with an athletic program. “(D)oes anyone really think that no students except athletes ask for help in how to cite Internet sources? Or in redrafting papers?”

Though Wiley was not an employee of the university when she helped the 11 players with homework, her actions, according to the report, “must be seen as those of a booster.” Under NCAA bylaws, the fact that she worked at the academic support center makes her, the report said, “an individual … who is known (or should have been known) by a member of the institution’s executive or athletics administration to … be assisting or have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families.”

NCAA infractions

According to the NCAA infractions report, Wiley broke rules by helping players write summary paragraphs for papers, correcting their grammar and composing pages that cited research sources for writing assignments and inserting citations. She also paid a $150 airline ticket change fee so a player could return from spring break early. She also made a one-time payment of $1,789 to settle a player’s overdue campus parking tickets. It was unclear whether she was reimbursed.

The NCAA infractions report raises questions about UNC’s training of tutors who work with athletes and the lack of follow-up when questions arose.

Wiley began working in the academic support center in August 2007, the beginning of her junior year at UNC-CH.

According to the NCAA report, she was supplied with a tutoring handbook, which contained rules about unethical conduct, including academic fraud and NCAA extra benefits. The book also listed institutional rules about the assistance that can be given when helping student-athletes with writing assignments.

“She was told to never make changes to electronic versions of the student-athletes’ written assignments, instructed not to provide academic assistance anywhere but the institution’s academic center, and trained on the concept of plagiarism,” the report states. Each year, she was required to sign a statement saying she had not engaged in academic dishonesty.

After rumors circulated in the summer of 2009, that Wiley was becoming “too friendly” with student-athletes, her employment contract was not renewed, according to the report.

“Had even a cursory review of her institutional emails been performed, the administration would likely have learned of the existence of academic fraud, recognized the need to do more than just terminate the employment of the former tutor, and addressed the problem by admonishing student-athletes not to have further contact with her,” the report states.

Cheshire said Wiley’s motivation was simple: She wanted to help people who needed help.

“In her eyes, she was not trying to help athletes be eligible to play, but was helping young people who needed help towards their dream of graduation understand how to do things they could not do,” Cheshire wrote. “As she would say: ‘Most of these young men were really nice, tried hard and would never play pro football, but they needed help to be able to graduate and have a life after football.’”

‘The real difficulty’

Lissa Broome, a UNC-Chapel Hill law professor and faculty athletics representative to the ACC and NCAA, said she wished Wiley would have talked with investigators.

“It would have been nice to hear what she had to say,” Broome said. “I’m sorry we didn’t.”

Cheshire said he advised her not to talk for fear that she would be the subject of a constant video stream on Internet and news outlet sites.

“(N)o one was interested in her truth or the poignancy of her story, in the real difficulty that students who have to give 40 hours to a job or sport in order to try and stay in school and who may come from poor and disadvantaged school districts and have a brief chance at success under tremendous pressure educationally and otherwise,” Cheshire wrote.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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