UNC-CH paid heavily to review and spin scandal

March 12, 2013 

The bills speak for themselves, and what they say is that officials of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have demonstrated an incredible disconnect with the public they are supposed to serve. The university used funds from the UNC-CH Foundation to pay the Baker Tilly consulting company nearly $490,000 for the so-called Martin Report, a review of problems with phony courses in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

The investigation, led by former Gov. Jim Martin, mostly confirmed what was already known from reporting by The News & Observer. UNC-CH paid a lot for the obvious, and that’s with Martin providing his services for free.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Holden Thorp, drawing from the same foundation money that university officials are careful to say isn’t taxpayer funding, hired a public relations consultant at $15,000 a month. That consultant, Doug Sosnik, is charged with managing the public response to the scandal.

It’s disturbing that university officials spent half a million dollars on an investigation that uncovered little. It’s equally disturbing that with a full staff of public affairs people, Thorp went outside for expensive private help. The university ought to be opening its doors and inviting queries from the media and the public, not trying to manage them.

That the money is technically private makes this no less outrageous. This is a public university that is complaining about budget cuts and a shortage of funding, while spending money on private help in dealing with bad news, and not managing anything very effectively. These costly efforts to disperse and spin the scandal have only added to it.

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