Nyang'oro indictment another step toward truth about UNC scandal

December 3, 2013 

Julius Nyang’oro isn’t likely to go to prison if convicted of obtaining property by false pretenses, but the charge against the former African studies chairman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is yet another embarrassment in a long-running scandal.

The specific charge has to do with Nyang’oro accepting $12,000 from the university for a summer class he didn’t teach. Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall is the prosecutor.

Investigations have found that academic fraud dates to as far back as the mid-1990s, with close to 200 lecture-style classes suspected of having never met or confirmed as having never met. Athletes were in the classes in disproportionate numbers.

Woodall has made few friends on the UNC campus for his aggressive but necessary pursuit of indictments.

University leaders are understandably weary of the story, but that doesn’t mean the story should be abandoned. A great university’s reputation was damaged by shenanigans having to do with the football program and athletes’ alleged contact with agents. It was further tarnished by an academic support system for athletes that seemed inclined to steer them to courses that would help them remain eligible to play rather than move them toward meaningful degrees. There also were the courses that simply didn’t exist.

Some on the campus believe the university has been persecuted in some way or has a public relations problem. But what happened here seems to have been a direct result of poor supervision and perhaps a little too much confidence in “the Carolina way,” that belief that UNC-Chapel Hill’s athletics program was a leader in how to do things right.

The university says changes have been made, and that’s good. New Chancellor Carol Folt needs to press on with stronger oversight, and, in time, the campus can put this disgrace behind it.

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