AFAM fraud leads to policy changes

UNC officials are changing several academic policies in response to the discovery of fraud in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

Changes range from new administrators at the department level to limits on independent study courses within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Karen Gil, dean of the college, presented the new policies at the UNC Board of Trustees meeting last week.

Gil said the changes are necessary to avoid further academic fraud.

“Our goal from the very beginning was to find out what problems had occurred and to make sure they were stopped,” she said.

The new policies are in response to an investigation, which began in September, that revealed issues with administrative oversight and improper record keeping in the department.

Since the investigation began, the department chair, associate chair and summer school administrator have all been replaced.

Faculty will now be limited to supervising only two independent study projects per semester, and a contract signed by the student will be required.

Exam and grading policies in the department will also be altered, Gil said.

She said problems in the department went undetected by the dean’s office because of a lack of oversight.

“Typically you would depend on the department chair to alert us in the dean’s office,” Gil said.

Jan Yopp, dean of summer school, said reliance on department chairs for oversight has been reduced by online registration system ConnectCarolina.

In her presentation, Gil said the new policies will prevent courses labeled as lectures or seminars from being taught as independent study courses.

She said based on the University’s investigation, the number of students enrolled in the irregularly taught courses — those in which the instructor provided and graded an assignment, but had limited or no interaction with students — was not unusual.

The University’s report found nine possible cases of forged signatures in the department. Gil said there is still no way to verify signatures on grade-change forms.

Every grade-change form must now go through the office of Bobbi Owen, associate dean of the college. The form must be signed by both the professor teaching the course and the department chair.

Gil and the associate deans completed a review of every teaching assignment in all departments for the past two years and found no other irregularly taught classes.

“We have looked for too few courses being taught by a faculty member, but have never before looked to see if too many courses
were taught by the same person,” Gil said. “That will change now.”

She said this will be an annual review from now on.

Board of Trustees Chairman Wade Hargrove said the board should enforce the changes.

“The focus of the board now, and that of the chancellor, is making sure that this never happens again at this University,” he said.

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