Editorial

Statements conflict with the Martin report

January 1, 2013 

One wonders if at this point former Gov. Jim Martin, who served as the head of a investigation into athletics and academic scandals at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wishes he’d passed on the assignment.

Martin’s final report, for one thing, was narrow in scope. Its main finding was that the alleged questionable classes and grade changing in the African and Afro-American Studies department were widespread. But Martin concluded that the problems were confined to that department. He further said this was a purely academic scandal and not an athletics one.

That’s important as the university, subject of multiple investigations related to academics and athletics, tries to avoid further sanctions from the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics.

Martin found that officials in the academic support program for athletes and the athletics department had raised “red flags” for the Faculty Committee on Athletics, which provides oversight of a sort on athletics, about questionable classes in African studies. Martin said the committee showed no concern about the “red flags.” Didn’t exactly salute them, in other words. The implication is that committee members had bought into the whole “Carolina Way” mantra that the university’s athletics program was beyond question.

But The News & Observer, in observing the pertinent minutes of the committee meetings, could find no references to red flags. And committee members willing to comment said there was no flag waving.

“You won’t find any reference to it in the committee minutes because there was no reference to it,” said Dr. Stanley Mandel, a medical school professor who was the committee’s chairman in 2002. “There was no discussion. Nothing was brought up.”

Another professor who served on the committee in 2006 and 2007 said he didn’t recall any negative references to athletics and academics.

So, what’s going on here? Martin’s conclusions that athletics officials and those in academic support (which had been connected to the athletics department) tried to make the faculty aware would help make a strong case to the NCAA that they tried to do something about problems, which would be helpful in fighting any sanctions. But if they didn’t do anything, that could be problematic.

If the university wants this embarrassment to end, it needs to clarify this apparent contradiction.

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