Faculty member: There was no warning about bogus UNC classes

UNC-CH history chairman says it ‘misrepresents what happened’

dkane@newsobserver.comJanuary 11, 2013 

As chairman of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of History, Lloyd Kramer knows the importance of creating an official record. At Friday’s Faculty Council meeting, he sought for that record to include his assertion that he was never warned about lecture classes that didn’t meet and suspicious independent studies within the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

Former Gov. Jim Martin announced that finding last month in a 74-page report about long-running academic fraud within the African studies department.

He said athletics officials and academic support staff knew about the academic irregularities but continued to help athletes enroll in the classes because the Faculty Committee on Athletics in 2002 and 2006 told them not to worry about how a professor taught a class.

Warning disputed

Kramer was on the committee during those times, and he said he remembers independent studies being discussed, but not as a problem or concern.

“I think this misrepresents what happened,” Kramer said of Martin’s report.

He and others at the meeting also criticized Martin for not contacting Kramer and other faculty on the committee to find out what they recalled. Martin has admitted he based his finding on interviews with four officials who have ties to the athletics department, plus committee minutes that show only independent studies were discussed. He absolved the athletics department and academic support program of wrongdoing as a result.

Debate continues

The debate over who said what and when about the academic fraud is the latest wrinkle in a case that has now hit its 17th month. Martin’s report, done with the assistance of the Baker Tilly management consulting firm, found more than 200 no-show classes over a 14-year period in which the only assignment was a term paper that was given a good grade without it likely being read. Many independent studies lacked an instructor as well, and several hundred grade changes lacked proper authorization.

Martin and UNC officials blame the fraud on long-time department chairman Julius Nyang’oro, who was forced into retirement in July, and former department manager Deborah Crowder, who retired in 2009. But other evidence shows academic support staff knew the classes weren’t challenging, and used them to keep athletes eligible to play sports.

Enrollment records show many classes were heavily populated with athletes, including football and men’s basketball players.

NCAA only watching

The academic fraud appears to be one of the worst cases to hit an American university, and it has prompted numerous university reforms. The NCAA has not investigated, and its president has said only that officials there are monitoring the case for possible sanctions. UNC-CH Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham said he has not heard anything from the NCAA since the Martin report’s release.

Kramer asked Faculty Council Chairman Jan Boxill to enter his dispute with the report into the record. Boxill suggested to Kramer that he and the others on the athletics committee, who also said they recall no such warning, may just not remember what happened. She has called the Martin report a “thorough investigation” and has urged the university to move forward.

Concerns to be reviewed

But after the meeting, Boxill, a former academic support counselor, agreed that Martin should have interviewed the committee members before issuing a finding that accuses them of dropping the ball.

She said she would work with Kramer and others to create a document that reflects that and other concerns for the council to take up at a later meeting.

Kane: 919-829-4861

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