A 31-page report released Thursday by a special panel of the UNC Board of Governors looking into the long-running academic fraud at UNC-Chapel Hill places the blame on a former department chairman and his longtime assistant, but also expresses dissatisfaction that scores of bogus classes were offered over a 14-year period with no one "effectively" coming forward to stop it.
"It is still difficult to comprehend why no one came forward effectively to identify and attempt to stop this past academic misconduct," the report said. "It is frustrating that we may never know."
The report largely accepts the findings of former Gov. Jim Martin and the Baker Tilly management consulting firm, which reported in December that the fraud stretched at least as far back as 1997, though some suspect classes date back to 1994. The report found more than 200 lecture-style classes that showed little or no instruction, 560 grade changes that lacked proper authorization, and hundreds of independent studies that had little or no supervision.
Martin and Baker Tilly found that athletes accounted for 45 percent of the enrollments in bogus classes held from the fall of 2001 to the summer of 2011, when the fraud was discovered. Martin has said the fact that nonathletes accounted for 55 percent of the enrollments during that period is evidence that athletics did not drive the scandal.
The panel's report does not reflect that certainty.
"We may never know whether some student-athletes were advised to enroll in irregular courses specifically as a mechanism to help preserve their academic eligibility, but no evidence has been found to support a conclusion that a conspiracy or collusion existed between the Athletic Department and the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes, on the one hand, and the two complicit former employees in the AFAM department on the other hand," the report said.
The fraud took place within the African and Afro-American Studies department. The panel accepted prior findings that department chairman Julius Nyang'oro and his assistant, Deborah Crowder, were solely responsible.
But the report also questioned a key finding in the Baker Tilly report, that officials with the athletic department and the academic support program for athletes had raised concerns about the classes with the Faculty Committee on Athletics in 2002 and 2006. An official with Baker Tilly admitted that finding was not correct after several faculty on the committee said they did not recall such concerns, or said it never happened. They had not been interviewed by Martin or Baker Tilly.
"There appears to be, however, some dispute as to whether questions were ever raised by academic counselors or others in the (academic support program) about 'paper-only' courses that were nominally listed as lecture courses," the report said. "This panel acknowledges the open question about what might have occurred years ago, but believes that it is immaterial to its focus on current practices in both Academic Affairs and the (academic support program) that reduce the risk for any such anomalies occurring in the future."
The report was approved by the panel after a short discussion Friday morning. The full board is expected to take up the report later in the day, but is not expected to vote on the report's findings until a later meeting.