The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

After the Wainstein report, UNC balances freedom with oversight

Provost Jim Dean said when details about the athletic-academic scandal first came to light in 2011, the University began to change its academic oversight policies, instituting internal reviews that require department heads and professors to undertake more work in order to prevent academic fraud.

“It puts us in a little bit of an interesting position because the Wainstein report comes out, and if people hadn’t been paying attention, they might say, ‘So what are you gonna do to fix the problems?’ And in many cases, what we can say is, ‘Well, actually, we’ve already fixed them,’” Dean said.

“That’s not to say we’ve fixed all of them. I do not believe we’ve fixed all of them. But we’ve come a long way over the last few years in order to address them.”

Department heads are now required to take an extra step to ensure that professors within their departments are being academically honest. They must collect and analyze professors’ syllabi and students’ independent study contracts, organize random class visitations and investigate classes whose enrollment of athletes crosses a certain threshold.

Since 2012, the College of Arts and Sciences has also required an annual review of department heads.

Fitz Brundage, chairman of the history department, said these increased oversight policies are essential to rebuilding and maintaining a positive reputation for UNC.

“Given what the report discovered, I think absolutely it’s necessary,” he said. “It’s something we have to do to restore the integrity of the institution.”

Though the extra work can often seem onerous, Chris Clemens, chairman of the physics department, said he doesn’t feel as if he or other departments are being unfairly penalized.

“It’s not punishment to be asked to document what you’re doing, so I’m in favor of it,” Clemens said. “It’s an extra few hours at the beginning of each semester to make sure that stuff is on file, so it’s not an enormous burden.”

Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, chairman of the anthropology department, said it’s vital that the University find a delicate way not to stifle departments’ academic license to conduct their classes as they see fit.

“It’s critically important for professors to have academic freedom,” he said.

Dean said the academic procedures instituted since 2011 don’t interfere with professors’ academic freedom in the classroom.

“One of the things that academic freedom means is the ability to do things that are unprecedented and newly really creative. And the kind of oversight we’re talking about doesn’t touch that kind of academic freedom at all,” he said. “Having said that, academic freedom never has meant the freedom to not do your job or the freedom to do your job really badly.”

Colloredo-Mansfeld said that while the Wainstein report does highlight a history of dishonesty on the University’s part, it also inspires change for the future.

“The issues about every department having to ensure that all courses are really run in the most ethical, best way — the Wainstein report just reminds everybody about the commitment we have to teaching and to the meeting of high standards,” he said.

Brundage said his department realizes the importance of these reviews.

“I wish it wasn’t necessary, but it’s obvious that it is,” he said.

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