From fund raising to public relations to policy changes, UNC-Chapel Hill trustees are taking a measure of the early impact of the Oct. 22 Wainstein report that detailed the long-running academic and athletic scandal at the university.
On Wednesday, the campus board heard a series of reports about how people are responding to the disclosures that more than 3,100 students – about half of them athletes – took bogus classes in African and Afro-American Studies over an 18-year period from 1993 to 2011.
Much of the work since the report was made public included reaching out to alumni, parents, donors and political leaders. One million emails have gone out to internal and external constituents, and 60,000 have visited the university’s website dedicated to the issue.
Within 48 hours of Wainstein’s presentation, the university’s development staff called 750 top donors. Then, they hit the road with Chancellor Carol Folt, talking to 600 donors in Charlotte, Atlanta, New York, San Francisco and Palo Alto, Calif.
A video that recapped the news of the day, including Folt’s visit with football players, was shown to alumni groups and others.
“What we found is people need to talk about it,” David Routh, vice chancellor for university development, said Wednesday. “People need to have a conversation.”
Trustee Don Curtis advised those with questions to go online and read the entire report, “because it makes people feel a lot better,” he said. “It’s a lack of information that bothers them.”
As of Nov. 14, the university had raised $60 million in cash gifts and grants for the fiscal year – down 10 percent from last year by the same date. However, Routh said, gifts were up 6 percent from a year ago, while foundation grants were down 19 percent. More recent numbers indicate the picture is improving, he said.
“I am pretty encouraged by what we’re seeing 30 days post-press conference,” Routh said.
He said the university did not hold its nightly student fund-raising phone-athon on the day the report was released, but resumed it quickly and has exceeded the goal on most nights. And, he said, less than 5 percent of people who declined to give cited the report.
Also on Wednesday, faculty leaders briefed the board on their discussions about what to do now following the Wainstein findings.
Bruce Cairns, chairman of the faculty, offered an expression of the faculty’s disappointment and remorse: “As a faculty we let down our students, the university and the people of this state who we serve, and for that we deeply and sincerely apologize.”
Provost Jim Dean gave an overview of the policy and process reforms that have been enacted in the past few years to prevent a recurrence, estimating more than 75 changes in all. They will be monitored for accountability, he said.
Among the changes:
• a new equation that predicts academic performance that can improve admissions decisions.
• a policy now requires regular review of academic departments and department heads.
• independent study reforms, including a limit on how many a professor can teach at once.
• an electronic grading system better monitors faculty workload.
• changes to the athletes’ academic advising program, which now reports to the provost.
Dean said the Wainstein report showed that a lack of oversight contributed to the depth of the academic fraud. Now departments are reviewed comprehensively by outside teams, he said.
“I think that this represents really an enormous step forward in terms of integrity,” he said.
Upgraded electronic systems will give the university more control over grade changes and other aspects of courses, the provost said. Course syllabi are monitored, and spot checks confirm that classes are meeting.
“We’ve really sort of moved into a different era in terms of our ability to track and monitor and assess the quality of what’s going on in the classroom,” Dean said.