UNC faculty consider Rawlings report

A recent faculty survey found that many professors think athletics is discussed too much at UNC — but reform to the scandal-ridden athletic department was at the forefront of conversation during the Faculty Council’s first meeting of the year on Friday.

This school year marks the final year of Chairwoman Jan Boxill’s term. Boxill, who said she conducted the survey recently, said she has made strides to improve the balance between athletics and academics — a main concern for the University.

Boxill said in addition to athletics reform, she would also like to focus on changes to the honor system and improving the campus’ response to sexual assault this year.

Boxill took questions from faculty on The News & Observer article published earlier this summer, which reported that she tried to water down the findings of a Faculty Executive Committee report on academic fraud.

“I’ve never shied away from creating space for frank analysis of college sports to take place,” she said at the meeting.

The faculty committee also discussed the report issued earlier this month by the panel of higher education and athletics officials led by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities.

Vincas Steponaitis, an anthropology professor, said many of the points under discussion were similar to past conversations, such as a 1989 report on athletics by the University.

“I was struck with a feeling of deja vu — I would like to find out more about ‘where are we on the recommendations of the 1989 report?’” he said. “There are so many parallels between things we are talking about now, and I would hope progress was made on some of those issues.”

Joy Renner, chairwoman of the Faculty Athletics Committee, said the University was working to evaluate what changes have been made by the University since the academic-athletic scandal first broke. There have been eight reviews and reports conducted on UNC’s athletic department in the past three years.

Renner said many of the report’s recommendations had already been implemented by the University, such as having an academic support department that was not run by the athletics department.

She said UNC leaders were discussing the recommendations that athletes reduce the number of hours devoted to sports and that athletes struggling with academics take a year off from playing.

“These policies are not one size fits all,” she said of the year of readiness recommendation.

“For some athletes this would be devastating — their sport is their motivation for pursuing higher education. You have to be sure when you make decisions, that you don’t decide for every student.”

Renner also said the University was working to provide a method for staff to report suspicious behavior to an external party — another recommendation in the report.

Boxill said some of the recommendations, such as year of readiness, would require changes from athletic conferences.

“It would be difficult for any school to do these things unilaterally, and while we would like to do them,” she said, “We want to include other schools and have public conversations on a national level.”

History professor Jay Smith said he wanted a campus discussion on athletics to be held on a larger scale.

“(It) would give the entire campus community the chance to address many of the thorny issues that came up in the face of our scandal,” Smith said.


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