Regarding executive editor John Drescher’s May 3 column on why The N&O continues to cover past academic and athletic irregularities at UNC-Chapel Hill: The N&O has played an important role in uncovering these issues, and we agree the questions being asked need to be answered to fully understand what transpired at Carolina. I want to assure our community that this issue is and will remain a top priority for my administration and me.
In February, shortly after the State Bureau of Investigation completed its investigation and new materials were made available by Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall, UNC System President Tom Ross and I asked Kenneth Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor and attorney who has served at the highest levels of government, to conduct a new inquiry into these issues. We know that this independent and thorough investigation is the only way to truly understand and address what went wrong – and we are committed to transparently sharing Wainstein’s findings with the public. This inquiry will address questions left unanswered during previous reviews commissioned by the university.
Since first learning about these irregularities, Carolina has not stood still. We have taken many positive steps, including implementing numerous reforms drawn from more than 70 recommendations. Our Office of Undergraduate Admissions has worked closely with faculty to strengthen how we assess student-athletes’ classroom readiness, for example.
And when I arrived on campus last July, I asked Provost James Dean and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham to work together on the Student-Athlete Academic Initiative working group, which is examining practices, procedures, policies and other factors that affect the lives of our student-athletes. I am proud of the working group’s progress and all of the reforms we are making across campus. These reports, reforms and updates can be found at carolinacommitment.unc.edu.
The scrutiny Carolina is facing is part of a larger national conversation about the role and impact of college athletics. We are not the only university that has faced challenges in balancing superior academics with a highly competitive athletics program. But we are the nation’s oldest public university, and I believe we have a responsibility to demonstrate leadership and get the balance right. We are taking the steps needed to do just that.
Committing ourselves to this process shows that we respect Carolina enough to fully uncover the truth, however embarrassing, inconvenient or painful. And it shows that UNC-Chapel Hill remains a place where we constantly challenge ourselves to be better. Commencement last weekend once again reminded me that our students do this every day. They embrace the opportunity to learn, lead and serve, and this year’s graduates, in particular, are doing incredible things with their lives. Perhaps most telling, many of them have told me that this year – a year in which we faced great challenges but responded with equally strong character – was the best yet in their Carolina experience. That is the finest testament I can imagine to the future of this university.
Carol L. Folt
Chancellor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the column.