Why is the Wainstein report significant?
Wainsten linked the athletic department to the scandal. At least two dozen current and former personnel in athletic, academic and advising departments knew about the fake classes.
The other important piece was that the classes were used to keep athletes eligible. Counselors would tell Crowder and Nyang’oro the grades that athletes needed to stay academically eligible and assign the grades accordingly, the report states.
Other reports, such as the 2012 report by former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin, found that counselors didn’t collude with Crowder and steer athletes to the classes. But Wainstein’s report found that wasn’t true.
To what level was the athletic department involved?
Several counselors within the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes were found to direct athletes to the fake courses. The report said counselors who steered athletes were affiliated with the football team, such as Cynthia Reynolds, Beth Bridger, Octavus Barnes and Jaimie Lee. Basketball tutors Burgess McSwain and Wayne Walden and soccer tutor Brent Blanton also steered athletes, Wainstein found. Blanton said he directed players, such as U.S. National Team players, toward these classes as a way to reduce their workload rather than keep them eligible, according to the report.
Lee and Blanton still work at UNC and Blanton is now associate director of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes .
John Blanchard, former senior associate athletics director and Robert Mercer, director of the support program, knew the so-called lecture courses never met, but thought they were otherwise legitimate classes, according to Wainstein report.
The academic support program was under the athletic department’s control until summer 2013. It now reports to the Office of the Provost.
How were professors involved?
The report found that former faculty chairwoman Jan Boxill asked for women’s basketball players grades to be changed, steered players to the courses and that Boxill occasionally rewrote parts of players’ papers. She served as a counselor for the women’s basketball team at the time and continued to ask for grades until at least 2010.
Tim McMillan, a current professor within the African-American and African Diaspora Department, signed grade sheets for at least seven classes he did not teach, according to Wainstein’s report. “I don’t know why [my signature] is there, but it is there,” McMillan was reported to say in an interview with Wainstein’s team. Wainstein also points out that McMillan saw many red flags and did nothing, such as Crowder asking him to look over a paper and tell her what grade it deserved.
Eunice Sahle, the current chair of the renamed African, African American, and Diaspora Studies, also knew — to some extent — about the courses Crowder irregularly taught. But she was not necessarily a proponent, the report found. An email between Crowder and Walden, the basketball tutor, corroborates this, the report found.
“I have already spoken to the professor [Sahle] and she is aware he [the student-athlete] can not [sic] come because of the time and she will just give him an independent assignment. We can get by with one or two of those,” the email states.
Alphonse Mutima, a Swahili professor in the department, knew generally about the irregular courses, failed to raise any questions about them with the administration and took advantage of the courses, Wainstein’s report found. Crowder enrolled many student-athletes in Mutima’s Swahili courses because it was considered an easy language, the report found. Though Mutima and Crowder originally butted heads about enrolling athletes, Mutima eventually began requesting that student-athletes be enrolled in the paper class because they were unruly, the report found.
How did the scandal happen?
Wainstein’s report found that Crowder and Nyang’oro were largely driven by compassion and wanting to help student-athletes remain eligible to play. Nyang’oro once complained in an email to Crowder that some Afro and African-American studies faculty members “bitch as if there’s no tomorrow...when you ask them to...help out a sinking kid.”
As to how fake classes happened for so long, Wainstein offered a few theories. Some of the athletics personnel who knew about the paper classes said they stayed out of academic affairs.
“Do I or anyone in the Department of Athletics have any say in how departments structure their courses – NO!” Mercer said in one email after Auburn University underwent a similar independent studies scandal. Wainstein’s report said this suggested the leaders may have tried to stay out of academic integrity issues.
And as far as administrators who saw red flags about the classes, the report said the culture at UNC was to not interfere.
“At all levels of the University, the inclination was to minimize management and interference from the administration and maximize the professor’s latitude to design his or her own approach to instruction and research.”