North Carolina

UNC considers system to report academic, athletic concerns

Amid the tough findings of an investigation that found a bogus paper class scheme inflated grades and helped keep athletes eligible for nearly two decades, officials at UNC-Chapel Hill are developing a standardized system to report concerns about academics and athletics.

Members of the university’s Faculty Athletics Committee during a meeting Tuesday discussed how such a system might work, what it might look like and how the university would respond to concerns, among others, of athlete clustering and questions of the legitimacy of athletes’ grades.

“We want to make it easy for people to raise their hand and ask the question” of whether an issue warrants further investigation, Joy Renner, the Faculty Athletics Committee chairwoman, said during the meeting.

UNC is preparing the reporting system after an independent investigation led by Kenneth Wainstein, a former U.S. Justice Department official, uncovered the depth of bogus paper classes in the African and Afro-American Studies Department.

Those courses, which spanned 1993 through 2011, were filled with a large percentage of athletes, often football and basketball players, who received high grades for doing little or no work. Since the Wainstein report was released, UNC has grappled with the question of how to ensure a similar scandal never happens again.

A standardized reporting system to raise concerns about the intersection of athletics and academics, Renner said, would be accessible to everyone – students, athletes, faculty, tutors – and would allow concerns to be logged and investigated.

The Faculty Athletics Committee discussed one concern raised by a tutor from the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes. The tutor questioned whether athletes were being steered toward Drama 115 and Drama 116, and whether there was an overlap in the two courses that led to questions about originality of work.

Renner handed out to committee members a draft of the “Issue Review, Analysis, and Recommendations” surrounding the tutor’s claim. The preliminary analysis concluded there was no evidence of grade inflation for athletes, or clustering, outside of rare cases during a five-year period.

Renner emphasized that what she handed out was a draft while the committee works to decide how the reporting system would work and what data analysis methods it would use to investigate potential questions.

One of the objectives of the system would be to grant anonymity to those who raise concerns. Renner said the committee’s goal is to have a reporting system in place as soon as December.

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