UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt said the university is trying to prepare for the results of an independent investigation into academic fraud and athletics, due before the end of the year.
“We’re still flying a plane in a fog,” Folt told the Faculty Council on Friday. “We’re moving forward while we are not at all participating in knowing what is happening in the investigation. That’s how we set it up, to be independent. On the other hand, we have a lot of work that we’re putting in place to be prepared for it.”
Folt said that includes handling a new round of public records requests involving the documentation of Kenneth Wainstein, a former top U.S. Justice Department official who’s conducting the probe.
Wainstein is looking into the long running academic fraud scandal, including lecture-style classes dating as far back as the mid-1990s that never met. Athletes were disproportionately enrolled in the classes and in some cases were steered to the classes by tutors, records have shown.
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Julius Nyang’oro, a former African studies department chairman at the center of the no-show class scheme, cooperated with the Wainstein investigation in exchange for a dropped criminal fraud charge.
Folt pointed out that Wainstein will only provide findings, not recommended fixes. Then, she said, the university will look to see whether recently implemented reforms are enough, or whether additional steps are needed.
“I believe we’ll be in a position to deal with the findings very rapidly,” she said.
Also Friday, Lissa Broome, the faculty athletics representative, gave a review of the most recent statistics on the academic performance of UNC athletes.
Graduation rates of student-athletes in 2012-13 lag those of the student body as a whole by 16 percentage points, she said. A power-point presentation showed gaps of 9 points at N.C. State University and 8 points at Duke University and 10 points at Wake Forest University. The University of Virginia had the same gap as UNC – 16 points.
“That obviously is a gap we’re looking at and cognizant of,” said Broome, a law professor.
Broome said the university had a record number of athletes make the ACC Honor Roll last year – 347 athletes, compared with 329 in 2012-13. Six teams were in the top 10 percent of their sport in academic progress. The teams were women’s fencing, women’s golf, gymnastics, rowing, volleyball and women’s tennis.
But UNC’s big money sports of men’s basketball and football posted Academic Progress Rates below those at NCSU, UVa, Duke and Wake Forest in 2012-13, according to Broome. The APR is a measure created by the NCAA to measure a team’s eligibility and progress toward degree.
“Men’s basketball and football are lower than we would like, candidly,” she said. “So we are watching those rates and we obviously have had discussions with the teams, the academic advisers about things that we could do to improve the retention of the student athletes on those teams.”
Broome said she expected the 2013-14 data to show some improvement by the men’s basketball team.
“Football is a bigger ship,” she added. “It will take it a little bit longer to turn around, but I think we’re going in the right direction there.”
The university is now in waiting mode for new academic data as well as the results from the Wainstein probe and a reopened NCAA investigation.
“Hopefully these things will come to an end,” Broome said. “I think it presents an opportunity for us. We can acknowledge the mistakes that we have made. And we can improve, and we have already improved, the processes related to the academic experience of student athletes.”