Students in the African and Afro-American studies department say the department’s reputation and future should not be based on former chair Julius Nyang’oro.
Senior Sam Pride, a major in the department, said he thinks the focus of the media and administrators has unfairly been placed on what’s gone wrong within the department, rather than what’s going right.
He said since Eunice Sahle took over as department chair in November, there have been a lot of visible improvements.
Sahle replaced Nyang’oro, who was listed as the instructor for many of the more than 50 courses the University found to be aberrant or irregularly taught — meaning courses were not supervised appropriately by professors or that signatures on students’ work and grade rolls were forged.
“Sahle is already doing a good job,” Pride said. “She has made an effort to meet with students and to improve communication between the department and students.”
Pride said this was not the case when Nyang’oro led the department.
“In a lot of my discussions with other students, we feel AFAM is being used as a scapegoat,” Pride said.
He said a lot of the issues brought to light by the University’s investigation might be going on in other departments as well.
Pride said lax academic standards are probably common at a lot of Division I schools — where athletic performance is placed above academics.
“This is a bigger problem than AFAM and a bigger problem than UNC,” he said.
Chancellor Holden Thorp refused several interview requests.
The University began investigating the department in September following the revelation that former defensive end Michael McAdoo had plagiarized a paper for a class in the department, and the plagiarism had gone undetected.
Kathy Kirschmann, an African and Afro-American studies major, said she’s concerned for her fellow classmates who will graduate from the department with hopes of continuing their education.
“We’ve (the department) felt like the poor stepchild of UNC for a while,” Kirschmann said.
Both Pride and Kirschmann said they were unaware of any issues within the department before the University released its report.
Sahle could not be reached for comment but Dee Reid, director of communications for the College of Arts and Sciences, said she has been out of town.
Reid said Kenneth Janken is serving as acting department chair while Sahle is away. Janken and several other department professors declined to comment.
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