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Tuesday October 4th

Faculty, athletic counselors facing disciplinary action at UNC

<p>Chancellor Carol Folt promised to give disciplinary action to nine employees upon receiving the Wainstein report.</p>
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Chancellor Carol Folt promised to give disciplinary action to nine employees upon receiving the Wainstein report.

“We’re being described by a set of actions that took place in our history, but I’m not going to accept that,” Folt said.

The 136-page report ­— the product of former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein’s eight-month long investigation — had enough evidence to warrant at least four terminations.

The University refused to release the names of the nine employees, but a person familiar with the matter confirmed eight of the nine names of people implicated in the report who are facing disciplinary action at UNC-CH.

“We take privacy issues very seriously and have worked diligently to ensure the rights of individuals are protected during this process. We will not comment at this time about the status of individuals whose employment could be — or has been — impacted as a result of the investigation,” said Rick White, associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, in a statement.

Folt said employees can appeal disciplinary processes, with rules varying for different types of employees. Disciplinary actions for those not terminated will vary, but even an employee facing termination has the right to appeal.

“My hope is that we can get to the (disciplinary) actions very quickly,” Folt said.

Most people implicated in the report — which found that employees in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies were creating bogus classes to keep student-athletes eligible to play — had already left the University, Folt said. She emphasized how much progress the University had already made since 2011.

“I don’t feel I necessarily inherited a culture,” she said. “I think I’m very fortunate to be part of creating a culture.”

She said communication among leaders is crucial to the University’s culture now, leaving behind the siloed leadership structure that allowed the malfeasance of Julius Nyang’oro — the former chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and one of the puppet-masters in the fake classes scheme — to go undetected for so long.

“We just don’t have tolerance for that anymore,” Folt said.

Four faculty members named

Four faculty members implicated in the report are facing disciplinary action.

The Board of Trustees gives all faculty members 14 days to appeal a personnel action and requires the employees’ case to be heard by a faculty hearings committee. Chancellor Folt would make the ultimate decision.

Dramatic art professor Bobbi Owen is the only person facing disciplinary action who has tenure. Owen was senior associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences from 2005 to 2014.

According to Wainstein’s report, she asked Nyang’oro to cut back the volume of his independent studies. Despite being aware of issues, Owen apparently did not mention them to “anybody above her in the administration,” the report said.

Jan Boxill, a master lecturer of philosophy who studies sports ethics, served as chairwoman of the faculty from 2011 to 2014 after spending years as the women’s basketball academic counselor.

Deborah Crowder, a secretary in the African and Afro-American studies department and the creator of paper classes, colluded with Boxill to fabricate grades to ensure athletes could play and subsequently graduate.

Boxill had an extensive understanding of the paper classes — in which students had no attendance requirement and had to turn in one paper that would be leniently graded by Crowder — and Crowder’s management of them, according to the report. Boxill told investigators she thought Nyang’oro did participate in the classes in some way.

Tim McMillan and Alphonse Mutima are lecturers in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies.

Wainstein’s report found that McMillan was close to Crowder and did not report numerous “red flags” from his interactions with her.

Crowder had created pape r classes and designated McMillan as a professor, according to the report. At least seven times, McMillan signed the grade sheets for the bogus classes, the report said.

“I don’t know why (my signature) is there, but it is there,” McMillan told Wainstein and his team, the report said.

McMillan refused in-person requests for comment.

Mutima did not share McMillan’s close relationship with Crowder, but he apparently did “have some knowledge of the paper classes,” according to the report.

Mutima’s involvement in the scheme was born in frustration. According to the report, he was annoyed by student-athletes’ apathy in his Swahili classes and blamed Crowder for putting the players in his classes.

“Faced with the choice of having a disruptive student-athlete in his class or off-loading the behavior problem to Crowder’s paper class ... Mutima occasionally opted for the latter,” the report said.

During a forum Wednesday, students from the recently renamed African, African American and Diaspora studies department looked to Folt for support of their major.

“I did already ask (Provost Jim Dean) to step in and work with the African, African American and Diaspora studies department,” Folt said Thursday.

Administrative assistant

Travis Gore assisted Crowder before her retirement in 2009, and he took on more responsibilities after she left.

In the report, Gore said he understood the nature of paper classes but — unlike Crowder — he never graded papers.

In one suspicious email exchange reviewed by investigators, Boxill told Gore she felt a player deserved an “A- or at least a B+” on a paper. The student eventually received an A- for the class.

“When we pressed Gore about this exchange, he denied having assigned the A- himself, but suggested that he may well have passed Boxill’s suggestion on to Nyang’oro, who was the instructor of record for that paper class,” the report said.

Athletic counselors

Two employees of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes are facing disciplinary action — academic counselor Jaimie Lee and associate director Brent Blanton.

Lee was “aware of every irregular aspect of these paper classes,” according to the Wainstein report.

The report said Lee and former football counselors Beth Bridger and Cynthia Reynolds emailed athletes to urge them to turn in papers for Crowder, a non-faculty member, to grade.

“Debbie Crowder is retiring ... if you would prefer that she read and grade your paper rather than professor Nyang’oro, you will need to have the paper completed before the last day of classes,” the email read.

At the time, Blanton was the women’s soccer counselor, and he knew his players would travel extensively to play on national soccer teams. Along with Coach Anson Dorrance, he encouraged recruits to come to UNC and used the easy paper classes as bait.

Blanton told investigators he did not know Crowder ran paper classes without faculty interaction. But the report said Blanton was aware of paper classes and “directed some of his players toward” them.

The bogus classes spanned 1993 through 2011 — and during that time the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes reported to the College of Arts and Sciences.

In an interview Thursday, Folt said the University has already spent $5 million to restructure its advising services to ensure student-athletes receive the support they need. The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes now reports to the Office of the Provost, a move Folt said was the first of its kind in the country.

Department of Athletics

One employee in the athletic department is facing disciplinary action. As the associate athletic director for football operations under former football coach Butch Davis, Corey Holliday was aware of the paper classes but thought they were similar to independent studies in any department, according to the report.

Holliday told investigators he knew the paper classes were easy and said players likely enrolled in the classes to balance their schedules, the report said.

“He never heard that they were used specifically to keep players eligible,” the report said.

At other campuses

At Wednesday’s press conference, UNC-system President Tom Ross said someone who worked in the UNC system but not at UNC-Chapel Hill was also facing disciplinary action.

The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported that, as of Wednesday, Beth Bridger, former associate director of UNC’s Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, no longer works for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Folt said UNC has been making steady progress since 2011 and is ready to move into a new stage of its history.

She promised to continuously review the processes created to prevent academic improprieties.

“This institution was so ready to embrace the advance, and that’s the hardest part about this,” Folt said.

“Revisiting it is acting like they’re not ready.”

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