As reform continues at scandal-scarred UNC-Chapel Hill, a campus group is working to develop a system for confidential reporting of unethical behavior and lapses in integrity.
Meanwhile, another group has undertaken what UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said what may be an unprecedented effort – a complete audit of all campus policies and procedures.
On Thursday, leaders of the two working groups presented their early efforts to a UNC Board of Trustees committee. The groups are expected to produce recommendations in the fall.
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Last year, when the UNC-commissioned Wainstein Report detailed an athletic and academic scandal that stretched for 18 years, Folt said she would launch efforts to examine integrity and policies. The working groups were announced June 4, the day that the NCAA gave UNC notice of five major allegations arising from the Wainstein findings.
The work of the two new groups are not the first steps UNC has taken to clean up an environment that allowed 3,100 students – about half of them athletes – to enroll in sham classes that required little to no work or faculty oversight. The Wainstein Report showed that a number of academic advisers, faculty and coaches had some knowledge of the situation, or saw red flags and ignored them.
Since the misconduct was exposed, the university has enacted about 70 reforms in academics and athletics, advising and admissions. The changes promote more accountability and transparency, UNC leaders say.
Even so, those reforms weren’t enough to prevent the regional accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, to slap UNC with probation – one step shy of accreditation removal. The commission wants proof that UNC’s reforms are having an impact by next spring.
The efforts of the two new working groups will no doubt be watched by the commission.
Norma Houston, co-chair of the Ethics and Integrity Working Group, said the committee first wants to define integrity and identify influences that shape the campus culture.
“What is it that led to people not reporting violations?” Houston said. “We’ll be exploring that.”
Houston is a former chief of staff and general counsel to previous state Senate leader Marc Basnight. She also helped lead the UNC Tomorrow Commission under former UNC President Erskine Bowles.
“We do not see this as a new commitment,” she said of the integrity push. “We see this as a reaffirmation of the Carolina Way.”
She said the group will do an inventory of all ethics training across the university and then come up with a way for people to anonymously report wrongdoing. Recommendations are due to Folt Oct. 15, she said.
The other group will hire a consultant to catalog procedures and do a detailed analysis of policies in three areas – the College of Arts and Sciences, the Registrar’s Office and undergraduate academics. The studies would provide a model that could be spread across the university. Recommendations are expected by the end of the year.
Folt called the inquiry broad and probing. “I just can’t tell you how important this is,” she said.
Faculty will give input throughout the process, said Dr. Bruce Cairns, who heads the UNC Faculty Council.
The anonymous reporting mechanism is a positive step in preventing future unethical conduct, he said.
“It seems like a good idea to me, because we want people to feel that we having nothing to hide,” Cairns said, “and we’re setting a culture where we don’t want these things to happen.”
Donations to UNC hit record high
UNC-Chapel Hill’s fund-raising machine had a record year, despite the negative attention resulting from the athletic and academic scandals.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the university had brought in $304.7 million in cash – up 2 percent from 2014.
“The good news is the year finished particularly strong,” David Routh, vice chancellor for development, said Thursday.
When taking into account both cash and pledged gifts, the total reached $447 million — a 44 percent jump from $310 million the previous year.
That robust figure was largely fueled by a $100 million gift from pharmaceutical entrepreneur Fred Eshelman to the pharmacy school late last year.
Routh said the Eshelman donation marked a turnaround in donor support.
“Fred’s vote of confidence hit at a pretty critical time that I think caused this whole community to step back and say, ‘Wow, let’s take a deep breath. We’re fine. We have confidence in the future,’” Routh said. “A very important donor was saying the same thing.”
Donations for student scholarships doubled, from $6 million to $12 million, he said, and gifts to athletics increased by 20 percent.