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Working group talks athletic department's interactions with Honor Court

Less than a month after four football players were sent to the student attorney general for being accused of assaulting redshirt freshman wide receiver Jackson Boyer during training camp, the Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group reviewed the Department of Athletics’ procedures for interacting with the Honor Court. 

Defensive players Des Lawrence, Brian Walker, M.J. Stewart and Donnie Miles were suspended from the football game against Liberty University after reports of the incident surfaced. Yahoo Sports first reported the incident on Aug. 26. A University investigation concluded Sept. 4 and the case was turned over to Student Attorney General Raquel Dominguez.

Vince Ille, senior associate athletic director for compliance, said whether the athletic department opens its own investigation depends on the nature of the allegations against athletes and if there are potential NCAA rule violations. For example, he said fake ID and underage drinking charges would not result in a separate athletic department investigation, but academic fraud or academic misconduct, as defined by the NCAA, would result in a separate investigation. 

Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said if an individual team rule was violated, coaches could be involved. 

“You have a legal issue, and an Honor Court issue and a team issue,” he said. “An NCAA issue is a quarter category. Depending on the severity of the issue, it kind of puts you in a category or multiple categories.”

The group also discussed who is notified when a student-athlete commits an Honor Court violation. Debbi Clarke, consultant to the provost, said it varies depending on the individual’s situation.

Clarke said there are 48 student-athletes in the business school, and even larger number enrolled in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

She said these two professional schools are not actively tracking the number of times student-athletes meet with their advisors. With hectic athletic schedules, Clarke said it could be difficult to arrange academic schedules for these highly sequenced majors. 

“I don’t want to help them so much so that it’s impossible for them to live their lives,” said Provost Jim Dean. “There’s really no good way around this, in my mind you either have too much structure or too much risk. You don’t want to just add indiscriminately, then it just looks like the tax code.” 

Cunningham said he’s more worried about wasting students’ and advisers’ time if students are on track. 

“I’m more concerned about the waste of time and effort than I am about slipping through the cracks,” he said.

The University requires all students to meet with an advisor during their freshman year and to declare a major. Some departments require students to meet with a department-specific advisor after they earn 60 credit hours.

Houston Summers, a member of the working group and a track and field athlete at UNC, said he is apathetic about the proposed requirement for academic advising appointments for student-athletes in a professional school. 

“I’m pre-med/pre-dental, never had a meeting with one of these advisors and seem to be doing just fine with that,” he said.

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