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Students confront Karen Gil over investigation into African and Afro-American Studies department

(L to R) Dr. Jonathan Hartlyn, Senior Associate Dean for Social Sciences; Dr. Karen Gil, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Dr. Evelyne Huber, Professor of Political Science and Interm Chair of Afri/Afam department, meets with the Afam/Afri majors and professors to address the recent conflicts surrounding the departments, including the introduction of a new Dean for the department.

For some students, the attention on the African and Afro-American Studies department has come at a heavy cost.

A small group of students stood in front of three administrators Thursday to protest the “reckless and insensitive” manner in which UNC has conducted its investigation into the department.

“We are being unfairly branded as exemplars of dishonesty,” one student read from a prepared statement.

Members of the group said they think the department is being used as a scapegoat for larger problems of academic integrity at the University.

The University’s investigation, which began in September, was launched following the revelation that former defensive end Michael McAdoo had plagiarized a paper for a class in the department, and the plagiarism had not been detected by the honor system.

Julius Nyang’oro — the professor in that class and then-chairman of the department — resigned from his post on Sept. 1. He remains a professor in the department.

Karen Gil, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Jonathan Hartlyn, senior associate dean for social sciences and Evelyne Huber, interim chairwoman of the African and Afro-American Studies department, would not offer any details of the investigation except to say that it is ongoing.

Prompted by questions about which irregularities the administration is examining, Hartlyn said UNC is still investigating whether or not there have been irregularities in past courses.

“We’ve really not reached any conclusions yet,” Gil said, adding that a final report is expected by the end of the spring semester.

Huber said when she first joined the department as the interim chairwoman, she found that the department lacked a community governance system.

“The department had been run very much as a one-person show, a one-man show in this case,” Huber said.

She said she installed an executive committee in the department, which has started to consider syllabi and the criteria for independent study courses.

Thursday’s event was organized by two students in the department and was meant to facilitate conversation between administrators and the department.

Many faculty members in attendance said they were pleased with how Gil and her team have conducted the investigation and represented the department in the media.

Andrew Reynolds, chairman of the global studies department, said as an outsider to the department, he felt Gil had represented the department well.

“I think it’s been very challenging to counter some of the negative perceptions,” Reynolds said.

He added that there is always room to improve communication about the investigation.

After delivering their statement, the students asked Gil to meet at another time, and left the event immediately afterward.

Gil said she was surprised that the students did not stay to hear a response from the panel.

“It’s a little hard to react to these points when they’re not in the room,” she said.

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