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UNC alumni address letter with concerns on sexual assault, athletics

A group of young alumni is adding its voice to the chorus of recommendations to the University on how to handle ongoing scandal and scrutiny.

Last week, six alumni from the class of 2011 — prompted by the negative press UNC has received as a result of academic, athletic and sexual assault scandals — drafted a letter addressed to the entire UNC community, including the UNC-system Board of Governors, UNC Board of Trustees, professors and students.

The letter asks the University to hold those engaged in academic fraud accountable, to apply the full academic standards to student athletes and to implement reforms to support and protect all students.

“We want to make sure that the University knows that we’re here to support and endorse them on following through with their stated mission,” said Benjamin Sines, an alumnus who helped write the letter.

The group forwarded the letter to friends, peers and classmates to generate support. As of Sunday, 107 alumni from several graduating classes had signed the letter.

Jonathan Tarleton, who also helped write the letter, said the group plans to submit the letter to the University on April 1.

He said the University is not only a crucial institution for the state but is also an influential leader among its peer institutions.

“Athletic scandals, academic fraud and mishandling of sexual abuse are problems at a lot of universities,” Tarleton said. “We think this is an opportunity for the University to be a leader again.”

Sines said young alumni have a crucial viewpoint in the discussions of university issues because they can relate to both older alumni, who are more distanced from the University, and students.

“We have one foot in the door and one foot out of the door, so we were recent enough as students but also moved away to get jobs and go to graduate school that we have a little perspective on the University,” he said.

Sines said the alumni want to acknowledge the positive work that the University has already accomplished.

“The University has set a lot of positive precedents in the past, so we want to continue that in the future,” Sines said.

Tarleton said while it is hard to say what will come of the effort, the initial feedback from alumni has been positive.

“We are gauging the interest in the young alumni community to get a feel for what type of urgency they feel on these issues,” Sines said.

Jillian Watral, a 2010 graduate who signed the letter and forwarded it to several friends, said she signed because she felt it was important to add input to remedy these issues.

“For me, it was disheartening and frustrating to see media attention that was not so positive, and it’s not clear to me as to how they’re going about making changes,” she said.

“I think the point of the letter was to come up with some ideas to help in that process.”

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