A UNC-Chapel Hill law professor involved with athletics for years will continue as the university’s faculty athletics representative, despite calls from some for new blood in the role.
For the past five years, Lissa Broome has been the university’s voting delegate to the Atlantic Coast Conference and UNC’s faculty representative to the NCAA. Chancellor Carol Folt said this week she reaffirmed Broome’s position after a recent review process.
But some faculty were dismayed with the decision to extend Broome’s role in athletic matters, given a long-running scandal that has bruised the university’s reputation. Last year, a report by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein provided evidence of a shadow curriculum at UNC from 1993 to 2011 in which 3,100 students – about half of them athletes – took sham classes that required little to no work. That has led to recent NCAA allegations and probation by the university’s accrediting body.
For years in the early 1990s and 2000s, Broome served on the Faculty Athletics Committee, a group that is designed to be a watchdog over the academic-athletic balance at UNC.
“I associate her with a tradition of benign neglect that was apparent all across the university,” said Jay Smith, a history professor and co-author of “Cheated,” a book about the UNC scandal. “She was in a particularly sensitive leadership role, and where she could have done things, she failed to do them. That’s why this is such a puzzling decision.”
Folt defended her decision. She said a review committee expressed strong support for Broome after the first full evaluation of a faculty athletics representative at UNC.
“We have a case always where we’ve got issues going on, but I’m not going to mistakenly attribute the cause to the wrong people,” she said.
Folt said Broome’s law background was particularly useful because the NCAA issues of compliance are so complex. “She is recognized amongst all the [faculty athletics representatives] as pushing the role of faculty governance,” Folt said.
Before becoming faculty athletics representative in 2010, Broome led UNC’s Faculty Athletics Committee at a time when the group was asked whether there was reason to be concerned about independent studies at UNC after similar trouble at Auburn University. Meeting minutes showed that no one saw a problem; the committee referred the matter to officials in the academic support program for athletes for further tracking. That monitoring never happened, though.
Broome could not be reached for comment, but in a 30-page statement to the review committee, she outlined her many duties, including advising the chancellor and athletic director, monitoring academic progress of athletes and serving on many committees related to athletics. The position includes membership to the board of the Educational Foundation, also known as the Rams Club booster group. She was one of five UNC representatives in the 2011 NCAA infractions hearing.
“The last five years have included some of the most challenging times in the history of UNC,” she wrote. “It has been, at times, trying and demanding. I believe I have provided important continuity to a new Athletic Director and a new Chancellor.”
The review of Broome lasted about two months and encompassed interviews of roughly 70 people, said Joy Renner, a medical professor who leads the Faculty Athletics Committee. Renner also led the eight-member review committee, which included only one other professor. The rest were administrators, athletic department representatives and a student athlete. The panel’s recommendation in favor of Broome was unanimous, Renner said.
A letter to Folt from an alumnus, John Powell, and a retired professor, John Shelton Reed, strongly urged the chancellor to replace Broome, saying the university needed a representative who had not been “intimately involved with Carolina athletics for so many years.” Further, the letter questioned Broome’s performance on the Faculty Athletics Committee as the scandal persisted. “We cannot say whether this record reflects inattention, incompetence or complicity, but it must be at least one of these,” the letter said.
Renner said the majority of people interviewed about Broome had high praise for her work as faculty athletics representative. Of Broome’s record on the Faculty Athletics committee, Renner said: “We can all look backwards and see lots of things and we say, ‘Oh gee, why didn’t we see that?’ But at the time, until you put all of the pieces together, it’s not quite as clear as it is to everyone today.”
Smith, the history professor, called Broome’s reappointment “a very conspicuous sign of continuity, and continuity is not what we need here.”
New trustee chairman had led Rams Club
Dwight Stone, the new chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees, quoted Charles Darwin in his remarks this week, urging the university to have the courage to change. Stone, of Greensboro, is president and chair of D. Stone Builders Inc. He is also the immediate past board chairman of the Educational Foundation, the athletic booster organization better known as the Rams Club. He remains on the Rams Club board.
Lowry Caudill, whose term just ended as UNC trustee chairman, is the new chairman of the Rams Club board, and trustee Don Curtis is also a booster club board member. The bylaws of the Rams Club say that at least two members of the board should be UNC trustees, Caudill said. That, he said, “essentially ensures that we have alignment between the Rams Club and the university” and prevents the fundraising arm from going “sideways.”
Others suggest the overlap is not a good thing. “I challenge anyone to name another serious university in the country that has as close a connection between its booster club and its governance as ours does,” retired UNC professor John Shelton Reed said in an email. “That may help to explain our current sorry state.”