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Tuesday September 28th

Former AFAM chairman Julius Nyang'oro indicted

The class was titled Blacks in North Carolina. AFAM 280 was supposed to be a face-to-face lecture course during the summer of 2011. And Julius Nyang’oro was supposed to be the professor. But the class never met.

Nyang’oro was even paid approximately $12,000 to teach the course, which comprised only student athletes. Grades went out to students enrolled. The class never met.

tracking a scandal

Nyang’oro has been a key player in a years-long academic scandal

  • May 2012: State Bureau of Investigation announced a probe into the department.
  • Dec. 20, 2012: Jim Martin released his report to the UNC Board of Trustees.
  • Sept. 17, 2012: Chancellor Holden Thorp announces his resignation after years of dealing with scandal.
  • Dec. 2, 2013: Nyang’oro is indicted by a grand jury for obtaining property under false pretenses.

Nyang’oro, the former chairman of the recently renamed Department of African and Afro-American Studies, was indicted Monday by a grand jury for obtaining $12,000 worth of property under false pretenses, a class H felony, according to the document. He will appear in court at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

A person cannot knowingly accept money with the intent to defraud a person under North Carolina general statutes.

The University asked Nyang’oro to retire in 2011 after officials discovered he helped form academic courses taught irregularly or not at all, some which had a disproportionately large number of student athletes enrolled.

It’s a scandal that has wracked the University during the last three years and Monday’s indictment was the result of a year-and-a-half-long State Bureau of Investigation probe.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said there could be one more indictment of a former academic employee in January, but that even if Nyang’oro is found guilty, the likely punishment will be probation.

“We weren’t seeing a lot of criminal activity here,” he said. “There may have been academic fraud and improprieties, but that’s not illegal.”

Woodall said the reason indictments have taken more than a year to be issued is that there has only been one SBI investigator examining UNC’s records.

“What people have to understand is the investigation started in 2012, and they were investigating things that took place years ago,” Woodall said. “As a matter of fact, the lead investigator and I, just a few weeks ago, just decided to close it down because there was still information coming in.”

Multple investigations

Nyang’oro was one of two employees implicated in a review conducted by former Gov. Jim Martin, which was commissioned in 2012 by former Chancellor Holden Thorp to investigate academic irregularities into the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

Martin’s report confirmed what numerous investigations, reviews and reports released throughout the past three years previously had found — that Nyang’oro and former department administrator Deborah Crowder were largely at fault for the irregular courses and the incidents were isolated.

But the report also revealed these types of courses dated back to 1997. It also said there was no evidence of athletics being involved.

Because he could not get in touch with Nyang’oro or Crowder, Martin said in January that the employees’ motivations for teaching irregular courses was unclear.

Martin suggested at a January 2013 Board of Trustees meeting that it was done to enlarge enrollment in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies to gain more faculty positions since it was so new.

University reaction

The University is currently left responding to indictments based on events that happened years ago under an entirely different administration.

Besides this most recent indictment of Nyang’oro, five other indictments related to the UNC football scandal have been released throughout the past few months, but the former department chairman’s indictment drew more immediate reaction.

A statement was released by Chancellor Carol Folt quickly after news of Nyang’oro’s indictment broke.

Folt said at the chancellor advisory committee meeting Monday that many details are uncertain and discouraged members from talking to members of the press.

“We won’t be commenting further,” Folt said to members about conducting interviews on the indictments.

“We don’t know the full extent of the court’s evidence. It’s their own separate process.”

UNC-system President Tom Ross also released a statement, saying he supports Woodall’s decision.

“Over the past two years, UNC-Chapel Hill and the UNC system have implemented extensive new policies, procedures, and safeguards to prevent similar problems from ever happening again,” Ross said.

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