Luke DeCock

DeCock: Martin 'impressed' with Wainstein report even as it contradicted his own

Former Governor Jim Martin gives his report on UNC athletics at a UNC-CH Board of Trustees meeting held at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC on Dec. 20, 2012
Former Governor Jim Martin gives his report on UNC athletics at a UNC-CH Board of Trustees meeting held at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC on Dec. 20, 2012 cseward@newsobserver.com

The artifacts of former Gov. Jim Martin’s long, distinguished and honorable career in public service lay spread out behind him at the North Carolina Museum of History on Monday.

The Rubik’s Cube he used to such great effectiveness on the campaign trail. The tuba he borrowed from the Salvation Army (he has since arranged to donate a replacement). The golf ball from his hole-in-one. His PhD graduation robes from Princeton. The bible from his oath of office.

Martin, prodded by Gov. Pat McCrory, even played a few bars on the tuba for the gathering of politicians, museum staffers and media.

Not in evidence among his donations to the museum, ceremoniously accepted in person by McCrory: a copy of Martin’s most recent endeavor in public service, his 2012 report into academic fraud at North Carolina, a sour note amid an otherwise impeccable record.

In his first public comments since the Wainstein report contradicted many of Martin’s conclusions, Martin acknowledged the impressive scope of the second investigation into the same topic.

“It was a very thorough study,” Martin said Monday. “You have to be impressed with the detail that they were able to bring out that wasn’t previously available.”

Martin, 78, served two terms as governor from 1985-93. A chemistry professor at Davidson before beginning a long and successful politicial career, he was approached by North Carolina in August 2012 to conduct an outside investigation into academic fraud in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

The Wainstein Report, released last week, included new information that further indicated Martin’s investigation was both insufficient and inaccurate, although Martin lacked the indictment-fueled access to Deborah Crowder and Julius Nyang’oro that independent investigator Kenneth Wainstein used to unravel much of the scheme.

Martin and consultant Baker Tilly successfully analyzed the suspect courses, found they went much farther back than previously suspected and determined that, statistically speaking, they did not exist throughout the university. Those conclusions were noted and complimented by Wainstein.

But Martin also drew conclusions unsupported by the evidence that were repudiated by Wainstein, most notably that the crucial contention that this was “not an athletic scandal.” Wainstein, on the contrary, found concrete links between academic advisors in the athletic department and the phony classes orchestrated by Crowder and Nyang’oro.

“As you know, (Crowder and Nyang’oro) wouldn’t talk with me or with y’all,” Martin said. “That meant we could only speculate as to what their motives were. I don’t know that everyone – there will be some who will still think (Nyang’oro) was bought and paid for, but they found no evidence of that, nor did we, nor did y’all.”

Martin also failed to delve deeply into the email record, which Wainstein and his team found particularly productive. This even though then-chancellor Holden Thorp said he forwarded incriminating emails to Martin while he was conducting his investigation. One, concerning a phony upper-level AFAM course filled with freshman football players, from academic counselor Beth Bridger, noted “guys are in this class for a reason.”

“I wish I’d had time to go through 100,000 emails, but I didn’t,” Martin said. “I gave four months of my life, for free, and dealt with the questions I was given to answer. We answered them: When did it start? Was there anything like it in any other departments? Were there other faculty members involved in these courses? We answered that.”

After the release of Martin’s report, Thorp and the Board of Trustees trumpeted its conclusion largely exonerating athletics, desperately claiming to have put the matter to bed once and for all. Less than two years later, Wainstein put the lie to all of that.

As Martin noted in passing as he left the museum for a reception at the Governor’s Mansion, there are people who think the Wainstein Report didn’t go far enough either. Martin laughed, softly, at his own observation. Then, with McCrory at his arm, he walked away.

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