What will Martin do? Here are some questions

acurliss@newsobserver.comDecember 19, 2012 

Here is a recap of some of the major issues and questions that could be addressed in a report expected Thursday from former Gov. Jim Martin on problems at UNC-Chapel Hill:

1. No-show classes

A faculty report in May identified 54 no-show classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at UNC, ones which were set up as lecture courses but didn’t meet. Instead, the only requirement for a grade was a paper. Records and reporting have shown that some freshmen football players were placed in upper-level no-show African studies classes.

Questions:

• Were there more than 54 no-show classes?

• Did the African studies department turn lecture classes into no-show, submit-a-paper-only classes prior to 2007?

• Who else knew about these classes, beyond the department chairman and his assistant?

• Did other departments do the same thing?

2. Designed for athletes?

Of the 54 no-show classes, records show that nearly two-thirds of the enrollments were athletes or former athletes. Many classes were dominated by athletes. A few had none at all.

Questions:

• Were athletes getting improper help at UNC?

• Did athletes get special treatment for access to no-show and independent study classes?

• How involved was the athletics department in suspect classes?

• Is any of this a possible NCAA violation?

3. Academic rigor

UNC has said that, while some African studies classes were taught “irregularly” or “aberrantly,” students and athletes did submit papers in those classes in order to receive grades. Beyond that, reformers say universities should review and make public classes and grades of athletes (without identifying student information).

Questions:

• Did the Martin review look at actual papers submitted by students in the suspect classes?

• How difficult were the classes?

• Does the Martin review identify other substandard practices with other departments, programs or faculty members?

• Did Martin review academic transcripts of athletes as part of the review?

• Is there an accounting for the types of classes taken by athletes and the grades received?

4. Plagiarism

The academic work of at least four football players made public has been shown to have been plagiarized in some form. In addition, a university employee says the academic support program for athletes tolerated plagiarism.

Questions:

• How will Martin address plagiarism in the report?

• What did he find?

5. Academic support program for athletes

Documents and interviews have shown that tutors, counselors and others in the academic support program provided extensive help to athletes in seeking to keep them eligible. The program’s interim director has acknowledged “overhelp” by tutors. The NCAA found in its probe of the athletics department that a tutor had provided athletes with impermissible aid.

Questions:

•  What did tutors and others in the program tell Martin?

•  Does he make recommendations about the program?

6. Independent studies

Records show that UNC athletes were taking a larger-than-expected number of independent study courses in the early part of the past decade. That plummeted after 2006, particularly among basketball players.

Questions:

• Why did independent studies decline when they did?

• Were they rigorous?

7. Easy and different classes, and clustering

Reporting has shown that a Naval Weapons Systems class in 2007 was taught differently than others like it before and after, with no tests or lengthy papers, and when six basketball players were enrolled. Some language classes, such as Swahili and Portuguese, did not require language labs and were popular with athletes.

Questions:

• Were some classes set up as easy grades for athletes?

• Why were athletes in those classes?

8. Julius Peppers’ transcript

A big reason why Martin was asked to conduct a review is due to the disclosure of the academic transcript of former two-sport star Julius Peppers. The transcript shows that Peppers scored poorly in many classes, but got high marks in African studies courses that helped him remain eligible to play. Some of his classes were the same ones later identified as suspect courses after 2006. UNC’s response focused on why the transcript was available to the public within the university’s Web portal.

Questions:

• Did Peppers benefit from no-show and independent study classes?

• Will Martin address the quality of education shown in the Peppers transcript?

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