The Government Accountability Project , a Washington, D.C.-based whistleblower protection organization, has recommended UNC investigate whether officials violated state law by harrassing her.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean said he does not think the investigation of Willingham’s research has done any harm.
“I find it very difficult to believe that trying to determine the truth of statements made about some of our student-athletes is anything other than what a university should be doing,” he said in an interview Monday.
In a letter addressed to Chancellor Carol Folt, group president Louis Clark referenced three times in which Dean discredited Willingham’s findings that 60 percent of 183 football and men’s basketball players from 2004 to 2012 read between a fourth- and eighth-grade level.
The accusations of harrassment made in the letter include a comment by Dean at a January Faculty Council meeting when he called Willingham’s data a “travesty.”
“Such inflammatory language used in a professional setting and providing no opportunity to respond is more of a smear campaign than an honest effort to address the issues raised,” Clark wrote in the letter.
Willingham said she has no further plans with the group but agrees with the letter.
“They don’t represent me, and I’m not part of their organization or anything like that,” she said in an interview Monday. “But I’m a citizen of the United States, so you know they’re a government accountability agency, and I’m a state employee.”