University offers to make up for fraudulent classes

A smattering of supplemental courses might be all that’s left for the University in its ongoing battle to rid itself of an academic scandal that has been unraveling since 2010 — as soon as it begins to implement them.

The courses are part of the University’s new plan that could involve bringing nearly 400 current and former students back to class in order to repair the academic integrity of their degrees, issued from the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

UNC’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, told the University June 20 that it will not receive a sanction for past academic irregularities.

Instead, the agency opted to monitor the University for one year as it moves forward with the proposals it submitted to the agency — plans that include offering optional courses to alumni and mandatory courses to current students who received academic credit for fraudulent courses. The plans also include provisions to ensure that steps have been taken to prevent irregular courses in the future.

“The council felt the plan was appropriate, but they needed to give (UNC) a chance to implement the plan,” said Belle Wheelan, the president of the agency. “So they gave them a year to do it and asked for a report at the end of the year.”

Wheelan said the University remains fully accredited during its year of monitoring. The next step after the one-year review — which could include a sanction, another monitoring report or a full clearance — is contingent upon how successfully UNC implements the plan it presented, she said.

University spokeswoman Karen Moon said in an email that a number of offices on campus are already involved in handling the new supplementary courses, and an email address and phone number have been established specifically for organizing the courses.

But calls and emails made by The Daily Tar Heel to both inquiry lines went unanswered.

Dee Reid, director of communications for the College of Arts and Sciences, and Chris Derickson, assistant provost and University registrar, both said the best information available at this point is that on the University’s website — the same proposals that were submitted to the accrediting agency.

The Department of African and Afro-American Studies did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

According to University documents, 304 alumni who received academic credit for “Type 1” courses — those which either did not exist or the instructor denied teaching and signing the grade roll for — will be given the option of returning to UNC for one supplementary course at any time over the next five years.

University documents state it will cover the costs of tuition, course fees and textbooks for these courses without using any state funding. The total cost of the courses — which can be from any department of the student’s choosing — cannot be determined until the University knows how many students or alumni choose to enroll.

The plan also identifies an additional 46 current students who received credit for irregular courses and who now will be offered three options — taking an additional course, taking a challenge examination or providing past course work to a faculty committee for re-evaluation.

The students will have to pursue one of the options if they wish to pursue graduation, the plan states.

Outgoing Chancellor Holden Thorp said in February, when the University was first responding to the accrediting agency, that he wanted to consider various ways to make it up to students who enrolled in classes not up to University standards — which is where the supplementary classes come in.

Now, Thorp said he’s pleased with the agency’s decision because it shows the University met the desired conditions to maintain its accreditation.

“We understand what they’re expecting of us,” he said. “My successors will put that in the monitoring report that goes to (the agency) next summer, and I expect that to go smoothly.”

University Editor Jordan Bailey contributed reporting.

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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