UNC academic scandal explained
UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday was expected to submit a written response to the NCAA’s amended Notice of Allegations, formalizing the next step in an NCAA investigation that began more than two years ago.
The contents of the document, and how the university is responding to an NCAA investigation into a long-running scheme of suspect African studies courses, isn’t yet known. A public version of the response is expected to be released Tuesday.
UNC had been preparing its response since receiving an amended Notice of Allegations (NOA) on April 25. In that amended NOA, the NCAA Enforcement Staff charged the university and three former employees with five Level I violations, which the NCAA considers to be the most serious.
All of the charges are related, in varying degrees, to the suspect African- and Afro-American Studies courses at the heart of the investigation. Those courses, which were designed as lectures but executed as independent studies classes, required little to no work in exchange for a high grade.
The classes lasted for 18 years – from 1993 until 2011 – and were filled with a disproportionate number of athletes, especially football and men’s basketball players. The NCAA Enforcement Staff found that the existence of the classes themselves, though, did not constitute an NCAA violation.
The sports of men’s basketball and football were not named in the amended NOA – a change from the original NOA that UNC received in May 2015 – and neither program faces a charge of wrongdoing. Because of that, it appears unlikely those programs will be subject to specific penalties.
Still, the NCAA charged UNC with a lack of institutional control because of its “failure to identify or investigate” the suspect classes. The NCAA alleged the classes “went unchecked for at least six years,” though Kenneth Wainstein’s independent investigation concluded the classes endured for 18 years.
The NCAA Enforcement Staff also charged UNC with failing to monitor the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA), the AFAM department and Jan Boxill, a former teaching professor of philosophy who was an academic counselor for the women’s basketball team. Boxill is also accused of providing impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball players.
Boxill’s attorney, Randall Roden, denied those allegations in a draft of the response to the NCAA.
“It did not happen,” the response said. “Not one of the Allegations against Jan Boxill is true.”
Roden also wrote a letter to the NCAA enforcement staff, objecting to the process. He said the university and the NCAA pushed a theory of misconduct based on speculation from incomplete records taken out of context. The letter said the evidence gathering and review regarding Boxill “has been impossibly burdensome and fundamentally unfair.”
The full response from Boxill’s attorney is expected to present emails to contest accusations that Boxill wrote portions of students’ assignments.
“The text in the emails that UNC and the NCAA accuse Jan Boxill of writing came from the students themselves, not from Dr. Boxill,” Roden’s response said. “She has consistently been denied access to the database of her own emails that would have enabled her to demonstrate the truth. But through months and months of painstaking research and talking to the students themselves, she has been able to reconstruct many of the specific interactions – and now has emails that show without doubt that the questioned material was created by the students and given to Dr. Boxill by the students. This entire case is based on assumptions that are not correct and are not supported by a single witness.”
The lack of institutional control and failure to monitor charges are the most severe the university faces. Two other charges are directed toward Julius Nyang’oro and Deborah Crowder, two former university employees.
Nyang’oro, the former chairman of the AFAM department, is charged with violating the NCAA’s principles of ethical conduct for failing to cooperate with an NCAA investigation. Crowder, the former AFAM administrative assistant, faces the same charge.
UNC’s response to the NOA is the next formal step in the NCAA’s investigatory process. The NCAA Enforcement Staff has 60 days to respond to UNC’s response.
In the NCAA’s next response, a date will be set for UNC to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which is like the judge and jury in major NCAA investigations. The case isn’t likely to conclude before early 2017.