UNC-CH board chair: Football class 'troubling in the extreme'

He says recent revelations raise more questions to answer

acurliss@newsobserver.comJune 10, 2012 

  • On WPTF this morning Catch an interview with staff writer Dan Kane about the UNC academic fraud case on WPTF NewsRadio 680 at 5:35 a.m., 9:27 a.m. and 1:46 p.m. Monday.

The chairman of the board of trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill said Sunday that the revelation of a summer class packed last year with football players who received grades without instruction is “troubling in the extreme.”

Wade Hargrove, chairman since last summer, said the new information about the class raises questions that still need answering.

Among them are documenting how the class was created and how the football players knew to enroll within days after it opened for registration. Eighteen members of the team and one former player enrolled in the class.

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, in a letter delivered to trustees late Thursday, said the university is seeking more information.

The News & Observer detailed information about the class in a report Saturday after receiving university documents through a public records request.

The records show that the class was created for the summer session last year and was taught by professor and former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro, who is under scrutiny for his involvement in dozens of classes in which there was little or no instruction offered to students.

On June 14 last year, Nyang’oro took steps to add the course, AFAM 280: Blacks in North Carolina, to the summer schedule. It was opened for registration on June 16, the first day of the summer session, records show. Within four days, the football players had filled it.

“I am totally taken by surprise!” Nyang’oro wrote to the summer school dean, without mentioning the makeup of the class. An email message he wrote around that time said the class was going to be for five students.

Nyang’oro was supposed to teach the class as a lecture, but instead treated it as an independent study course. The students wrote a 15-page paper to receive a grade.

Records show academic support staff for student-athletes at the university helped the football players register for the class and were aware of how Nyang’oro would handle the course.

Hargrove said Sunday that the class – and other questioned independent study courses in the department – do not amount to a “rigorous academic experience” that every student at UNC-Chapel Hill should receive.

And it only adds to revelations over the past year, one in which the university was sanctioned by the NCAA, that are troubling and distressing, he said.

“You can’t love Carolina and not be heartbroken,” Hargrove said.

Last year, after football player Michael McAdoo was shown to have plagiarized a paper in a class listed under Nyang’oro’s name, Thorp said he did not intend to question the professor about it and said the matter was resolved.

“We’ve done a very thorough investigation on the academic side,” Thorp said last summer.

A month later, The N&O obtained a partial transcript showing that football star Marvin Austin had taken an advanced, 400-level class under Nyang’oro when he first arrived on campus. Austin later enrolled in a basic writing class, records show.

University officials launched another internal review and notified the NCAA of the swirl of questions.

A subsequent university report said no athletes had received favorable treatment in Nyang’oro’s department.

But that report, issued last month, also detailed irregularities in the department and in classes under Nyang’oro.

It was announced then that Nyang’oro would retire, effective July 1. Thorp called the review thorough and diligent.

The N&O then sought records about payments to Nyang’oro for his summer classes, and they showed that the professor received $12,000 for the lecture class that he handled instead as an independent study.

Officials said they would review the matter. A criminal probe began.

On Thursday, Thorp said the university now “will take back” that money from Nyang’oro, who has not commented.

Hargrove said Sunday that Thorp’s handling of the ongoing crisis at UNC-Chapel Hill is not in question.

The university’s trustees support Thorp, he said, without elaborating.

Curliss: 919-810-7179

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