University officials announced Thursday an outside review of academic irregularities in the African and Afro-American Studies department that will attempt to trace the scandal from 2007 to its beginning.
The new review, which is the University’s broadest attempt yet to get to the bottom of what has become one of the most damaging scandals in its history, will be led by former Gov. Jim Martin. UNC has also hired the consulting firm Virchow, Krause & Company to assist in the effort.
“We got into this with them over the last several months because we knew that, even if everybody was satisfied with the assessment of what had happened, we were going to need to be able to certify that this wouldn’t happen again,” said Chancellor Holden Thorp in an interview.
But Martin said in an interview that Thorp just contacted him Wednesday afternoon to ask him to head the effort, and had further conversations with him throughout the day on Thursday before the review was announced.
“I’ve committed to dig into it, and I have an understanding that there is no limitation or restriction to what we want to do,” Martin said.
Martin said the review should begin in 10 days or less, after both he and the consulting firm complete their initial research individually. He added that they hope to finish the review by early to mid October in time for the October meeting of the UNC-system Board of Governors.
“We’ll be looking for evidence of proper reporting of class activities, looking at grade patterns, records of that kind, and see where that takes us,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll be interviewing some people to see what is generally considered to be problematic, either within someone’s own department or another department, that might give us some leads.”
Martin served as governor of North Carolina from 1985 to 1993 and also served six terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 9th district.
Thorp announced another initiative that will examine the relationship between athletics and academics on campus in the future, which comes on the heels of a faculty report that recommended such a step. The effort will be led by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, and will begin after Martin’s review is complete.
Jay Smith, associate chairman of the history department, said he has been hoping that Thorp would carry out a recommendation made by the Faculty Executive Committee to create an independent panel of experts.
Smith helped draft a statement in February from an informal group of faculty that called for changes to UNC athletics, including institutional openness, educational responsibility and mission consistency. He has been outspoken about the scandal, and said he is particularly concerned about the academic integrity of the University.
Smith said the administration should hold a university-wide forum to host discussion about something that has left much of the faculty in disagreement.
“Right now the scandal is having the impact of leaving us all depressed and demoralized, and divided,” he said. “But I think in the end we’ll probably come out of it OK.”
Revelations of academic fraud in the African and Afro-American Studies department have plagued the University for months. Former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro and former administrator Deborah Crowder presided over the creation of problematic independent study courses that in some cases contained a disproportionate number of student athletes, according to a UNC report released earlier this summer.
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