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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC faculty focuses on mentors

Questions raised after misconduct

Steve Reznick and Chancellor Holden Thorp discuss academics and athletics at a meeting Tuesday dealing with issues the football team faces.
Steve Reznick and Chancellor Holden Thorp discuss academics and athletics at a meeting Tuesday dealing with issues the football team faces.

At a meeting Tuesday of the Faculty Athletics Committee, professors, administrators and athletics officials outlined the safeguards established to prevent misconduct between UNC athletes and those who provide academic support.

“It’s a fine line between scaring the hell out of them and actually being able to show them how to work with a student athlete,” said Robert Mercer, director of academic support for student athletes, about the training of tutors and mentors.

In light of the recent NCAA investigation, the explanation of training for mentors and tutors took precedence. And officials from across the University provided their insights.

“Obviously we’ve had an eventful couple of months in athletics,” said Chancellor Holden Thorp, who briefly attended the meeting. “We found out about a former tutor who helped some of our football players perhaps more than would be appropriate.”

Thorp said the University has created a group to examine the alleged infringements by football players.

“Women’s soccer and field hockey are doing fantastic,” Thorp added, garnering a chuckle from the rest of the committee.

Athletics director Dick Baddour acknowledged that some people want the allegations dealt with quickly, but he said the University will not sacrifice thoroughness for speed.

“We get questions about how quickly you can move,” Baddour said. “You have to balance that with doing a thorough job. The integrity of the University is paramount.”

Baddour reiterated that the University is investigating both academic misconduct and improper relationships with agents with regard to some football players. Thirteen players did not play against Louisiana State University last Saturday because they were either ruled ineligible to play or were withheld pending further review by UNC.

Baddour said the investigation is focused on individual players and not the team as a whole. He added that UNC is fully cooperating with the NCAA.

“We are trusted,” he said. “They have a high level of confidence in us, and we don’t want to do anything to damage that.”

Steve Reznick, psychology professor and chairman of the committee, said members needed to better understand the University’s academic support for student athletes.

“We’re going to assess the damage, and we’re going to make sure that mistake doesn’t get made again,” he said.

Mercer said student tutors are usually juniors or seniors who help student athletes with specific subjects, while mentors work one-on-one to help student athletes focus more on time management and learning techniques. All tutors and mentors are trained on Honor Court policy and University and NCAA rules. They also have to sign an academic honesty agreement.

Susan Maloy, assistant athletic director for certification and eligibility, said there are a lot of rules that limit the aid that tutors can give student athletes. For instance, tutors cannot sit beside an athlete and look at their computer screen. They are also given severe restrictions on their ability to help athletes edit papers, which Maloy said is always a trying situation.

“Any time they have a question with what’s OK, we tell them to bring it to one of the program coordinators,” Mercer said. “We’re always going to tell them to err on the side of caution.”

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