News of a longtime paper-class scheme in the African, African American and Diaspora Studies department still won’t deter Huddleston, a UNC alumna, from becoming a professor in the field.
“This scandal doesn’t change me,” said Huddleston, who’s also considering an academic career in public policy . “I’m still unwavering in my passion for the discipline, because I understand the hard work that goes into it.”
In a report released Wednesday, former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein found that Julius Nyang’oro, former chairman of the recently renamed Department of African and Afro-American Studies, worked with his secretary Deborah Crowder to create fake classes for almost 20 years. The classes helped athletes and other students maintain eligibility for scholarships.
“With all of your major schools, the athletics are really popular, and just knowing what the athletes have to go through ... I’m not surprised that they were either funneled into classes or majors that weren’t necessarily challenging for them,” said Huddleston, who graduated in May 2013 and took multiple classes in the department during her time at UNC. Huddleston said she did not know about the bogus classes .
“It is going to be challenging for the department to continue recruiting people because of this scandal, and it’s so nationwide,” she said.
Wainstein’s report said these classes did not meet; instead, the students, many of whom were athletes, were only required to turn in one paper, which Crowder graded leniently.
“I’ve had people ask me since (Thursday) if I was planning on changing my major because people wouldn’t take me as a credible graduate in a AAAD major,” said sophomore Emily Sheffield , who is an African, African American and Diaspora studies and biology double major.
“One of my African studies classes this semester is one of the most difficult classes I’ve taken here in three semesters ... I do as much work for that class as I do for my analytical chem class.”
The report said current department chairwoman Eunice Sahle had knowledge of the courses and complained to Nyang’oro about the students who Crowder placed on her class rolls.
Sahle never took action against the practice, according to the report.
In the report, Wainstein said Sahle denied knowing about the classes. Sahle told Wainstein’s investigative team she tried to convert one of the fake classes into a regular class with instruction and assignments.
Sahle refused to comment for this story.
Kenneth Janken, professor and director of undergraduate studies and honors coordinator for the African, African American and Diaspora Studies Department, said he thought the report was detailed and thorough.
He would not comment about whether he’s talked to individuals named in the report.
“What I took away from the report is what I knew all along, which is that practically all the teaching faculty (in the department) were not involved in the creation and the maintenance of those classes,” he said.
Senior Omololu Babatunde, who is one of the organizers of the Real Silent Sam Coalition, which will hold its “Rally Speaking Back to the Wainstein Report” Wednesday, said she thinks the department is being targeted.
“The report took an issue that is very intertwined and entangled and complicated and tried to use one space as a scapegoat,” she said.
“By discrediting that department, what they were actually doing too is really discrediting experiences of people of color and discrediting that fact — that their history, this space — should exist and that their history should be taught.”