UNC academic scandal explained
Now that UNC is in the Final Four, the academic/athletic scandal that has dogged the university for five years is popping up in the news. Some questions and answers:
Q: Weren’t these legitimate, but easy classes?
A: No. Deborah Crowder, the former administrative manager in the African and Afro-American Studies department, was not a professor. She didn’t have a master’s degree, let alone a Ph.D. She created and graded the classes on her own, though at some point in the scheme department chairman Julius Nyang’oro became aware of them.
Q: Didn’t Crowder begin offering the fake classes to help all students?
A: This claim is pegged to a finding in the Wainstein Report that “Crowder and Nyang’oro were primarily motivated to offer these classes by a desire to help struggling students and student-athletes.”
But the report also says that Crowder began the fake classes in 1993 after counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes complained about athletes having to meet with Nyang’oro regularly and provide updates on their work as part of an independent study. These requirements are typical for an independent study.
Q: Crowder provided them “paper classes” that gave athletes a high grade, and more time to spend on their sport. Didn’t athletes make up slightly less than half of the enrollments in the classes?
A: Yes. But those enrollment numbers reinforce the prominent role that athletes played in the scandal. First, athletes make up less than 5 percent of the student body, but they made up roughly half of the students in the classes, with football and men’s basketball players the heaviest users. More than 1,500 athletes took at least one fake class.
Second, athletes accounted for half of the 30 students who enrolled in four or more of those fake classes that were identified as independent studies. Of the 154 students who took five or more fake classes that were falsely labeled as lecture classes, more than two-thirds were athletes.
Q: Men’s basketball coach Roy Williams says there are no NCAA allegations involving men’s basketball. Is that true?
A: No. The NCAA’s case against UNC alleges men’s basketball players received impermissible benefits by receiving special access to the fake classes, largely through the efforts of academic counselors in the athlete support program. Men’s basketball is among the three programs that primarily benefited from the special access. The exhibits along with the notice cite examples of that access, including men’s basketball counselor Wayne Walden working with Crowder to put athletes in the classes. Williams brought Walden to UNC from Kansas.
The notice does not accuse Williams or the coaches of wrongdoing, but the fake classes aided his players, particularly those on the 2005 championship team.
Q: What did Williams know about the fake classes?
A: Williams became the men’s basketball coach in 2003, long after the fake classes started. He also inherited a tutoring program that had been operating outside of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes. It was led by Burgess McSwain, a close friend of Crowder. Williams told Wainstein that McSwain was too close to his players. Williams brought in Walden, his counselor from the University of Kansas, and the tutoring program went under the supervision of the academic support program.
By 2006, Williams realized a lot of his players were majoring in AFAM, and some were taking multiple independent studies. He knew Rashad McCants, a shooting guard who was key to the team’s 2005 national championship, had taken “three or four independent studies” in one semester. McCants’ transcript shows that semester was during the team’s championship run. Williams told an assistant coach, Joe Holladay, to make sure his players weren’t being steered into pursuing AFAM majors. Williams also told Holladay to steer them to classes that met. As a result, by 2007, the team was no longer in AFAM’s independent studies, though some continued to take the fake classes that were disguised as lecture classes. That stopped in 2009, when Crowder retired.
Q: Did any of the current players take fake classes?
A: No. All of the current members arrived no earlier than the 2012-13 academic year. By then, the fake classes had been exposed and shut down. Records show basketball players last enrolled in fake classes in the summer of 2009, just before Crowder retired.
Q: Why hasn’t the NCAA ruled in this case?
A: The NCAA had sent its notice of allegations to UNC nearly 11 months ago. At that point, UNC had 90 days to respond. But shortly before that deadline, UNC told the NCAA new potential violations had been found. That stopped the clock until the NCAA responds to the new allegations.