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Campus shocked by former faculty chairwoman Jan Boxill's involvement in academic scandal

Jan Boxill

Jan Boxill

The revelations in Kenneth Wainstein’s report that former faculty chairwoman and preeminent scholar on sports ethics Jan Boxill was responsible for funneling student-athletes into bogus paper classes and making sure they received the grade they would need to stay eligible was like a kick to the stomach for her friends and colleagues who relied on Boxill to help guide the University out of the maelstrom of academic impropriety.

Boxill was the the chairwoman of the faculty from April 2011 to June 2014 after serving as women’s basketball academic counselor.

Boxill didn’t return seven calls for comment. Her employment status as a professor in the UNC Department of Philosophy and the director of the Parr Center for Ethics is unknown. She is no longer listed as director on the center’s website.

Bruce Cairns, the current chairman of the faculty, said he could not comment on personnel matters regarding the release of the report and those who were named in it.

Chancellor Carol Folt said nine employees would face disciplinary action — which could include termination — as a result of the report. Folt said at least four people would be terminated. The names of those employees have not been released.

Among the most revealing pieces of evidence against Boxill were her 2008 emails to Deborah Crowder, the former administrative assistant in the former Department of African and Afro-American Studies. The two discussed the grades a women’s basketball player needed in a paper class to maintain eligibility.

In the report, women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell knew that Boxill had a good relationship with Crowder and assumed that friendship was the reason many of her players were enrolled in African and Afro-American studies department classes.

Hatchell said Boxill was in charge of coordinating classes for the players and never let on that the classes were irregularly taught.

According to the document, Crowder emailed Boxill asking, “Did you say a D will do for (the basketball player)?” Boxill emailed back, “Yes a D will be fine; that’s all she needs.”

Yet, Jean DeSaix, a biology professor and good friend of Boxill, said clarifying what grade a player needs to remain academically eligible does not necessarily mean she was requesting the professor give the player that grade.

“People come in all the time and say I need a D,” DeSaix said. “Well, I hear what they’re saying but if they get an F, they still get an F. In other words, telling somebody what somebody needs isn’t the same as saying, ‘Please give them this.’”

According to the report, Boxill was fully aware of how the classes were handled, including that Crowder had a lot of influence in the grading, and that they were irregular.

Between 1999 and 2009, there were 114 women’s basketball players enrolled in paper classes and the players were encouraged to take these classes by Boxill, their academic counselor.

Julius Nyang’oro,  the former chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, told Wainstein and his team he would only accept the players into his paper classes per an explicit request from Boxill, adding that he would give players certain grades upon her request.

“He recalled one particular situation when he gave a women’s basketball player a B+ even though he felt her paper was ‘terrible’ and was a ‘clear F,’” Wainstein wrote in the report. The report stated that Nyang’oro gave this grade becasue Boxill requested that he give the player a higher grade to maintain eligibility.

DeSaix admitted she was biased because of her friendship with Boxill, but said she still had a hard time believing that Boxill would blatantly participate in unethical practices.

“Jan is so, so ethical. It just — I don’t know — I can’t even make sense out of it,” she said. “It doesn’t feel right to me.”

Wainstein said Boxill added content to some players’ papers, adding text to the introductions and conclusions.

“Boxill emailed a player a revised paper and explained that she had ‘add(ed) some stuff for the intro and conclusion,’” the report said.

Boxill acknowledged that she added content to the students’ papers, but said the additions were “minor” and “not substantive.”

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DeSaix said that even though she knew the situation with irregular classes was problematic, she doesn’t fully believe that Boxill lost her ethical compass amid it.

“I am sure I am inclined to read (the report) very differently than other people will,” DeSaix said.

“Clearly bad things happened. I mean, clearly bad things happened. It just does not ring true to me that Jan would cross a line so completely.”

DeSaix said she hopes the University can move forward with as little negative response as possible.

“I mean we have lost one chancellor — one really good chancellor — because of how this was handled,” DeSaix said.

“I can see that Chancellor Folt needs to do whatever she needs to do to move forward, and I absolutely believe she will take us forward in a good way and I can’t second-guess what she is going to need to do to do that.”