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The Daily Tar Heel

University fires four for involvement in academic scandal

Tim McMillan, senior lecturer in UNC's Department of African, African-American and Diaspora Studies, talks to students and local residents on the Black and Blue Tour about historical landmarks on campus related to UNC's racial history.
Tim McMillan, senior lecturer in UNC's Department of African, African-American and Diaspora Studies, talks to students and local residents on the Black and Blue Tour about historical landmarks on campus related to UNC's racial history.

The University confirmed Wednesday that employees Jeanette "Jan" Boxill, Tim McMillan, Jaimie Lee and Beth Bridger were terminated for their involvement in the decades-long academic scandal designed to keep student-athletes eligible to play that was chronicled by Kenneth Wainstein's investigative report.

The report found that Julius Nyang’oro, the former chairman of the African and Afro-American Studies Department, and Deborah Crowder, a long-time secretary in the department and a UNC alumna, created fake classes where the only requirement was a short paper that was leniently graded by Crowder — a non-faculty employee.

Following the release of the Wainstein report in October, Chancellor Carol Folt promised nine people would face disciplinary action for their involvement in the academic scandal revealed in the $3.1 million Wainstein investigation. But citing the employees’ right to an appeal and their right to privacy, Folt never released the nature of the disciplinary action the nine would face, nor would she identify the nine employees involved — meaning some of the men and women responsible for facilitating the bogus classes could have gotten away with a simple written warning and the public would never know.

Ten media organizations, including The Daily Tar Heel, sued the University for the names of those employees facing disciplinary action in November. On Wednesday, UNC and the new organizations reached a settlement, and the University released the updated employee records for Jan Boxill, Tim McMillan, Jaimie Lee and Beth Bridger.

Boxill's termination process still pending

Boxill used her role as the academic counselor for the women’s basketball team to further perpetuate the paper class scheme. Emails showed that Boxill would suggest the grades that should be given to her players to Crowder and wrote parts of academic papers for her players, according to the supplementary documents provided with the Wainstein report.

“In light of the extraordinary circumstances underlying the longstanding and intolerable academic irregularities described in the Wainstein Report ... it is necessary to disclose that, on October 22, 2014, the University informed faculty member Jeanette Boxill, Ph.D., of an intent to terminate her employment based on evidence accompanying the report,” Folt said in a memo released today.

Boxill, the former chairwoman of the faculty and a lecturer in the ethics department, requested a hearing before the University Faculty Hearings Committee after learning of the University's intent to terminate her.

"While that process is pending, and after extensive reflection and deliberation, disclosing this information relating to Dr. Boxill is necessary to maintaining the level and quality of services Carolina provides as well as our integrity as we continue to move forward," Chancellor Folt said in the memo. "With this and all actions we take, it is our intention to be transparent and responsible, committed to excellence and integrity in everything we do."

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. Wainstein said Boxill was fully aware of how the classes were conducted, including Crowder’s role.

Boxill offered irregular amount of independent studies

According to documents obtained by The Daily Tar Heel, Boxill also offered an irregular amount of independent studies herself as a lecturer in the philosophy department.

A Daily Tar Heel investigation revealed that Boxill offered 160 independent studies between 2004 and 2014, and supplementary emails of the Wainstein report show players were encouraged to take her classes.

In an email to Crowder in 2006, former football counselor Cynthia Reynolds discussed placing her players in Boxill’s class.

“Nice call on the Phil 30 (Boxill) correspondence course last semester,” the email said. “Didn’t know Jan was doing those.”

Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, the former philosophy department chairman and Boxill’s replacement as director of the Parr Ethics Center, said in an interview with The Daily Tar Heel in November that more than 150 independent studies is an unusually large number of independent studies for any professor to offer. Current department chairman Marc Lang said he can count the number of independent studies he has taught at UNC on one hand. Lang came to UNC in 2003.

As of fall 2012, faculty are only permitted to offer two students independent study courses per semester.

‘I don't know why (my signature) is there, but it is there’

McMillan, a senior lecturer in the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies filed his resignation, effective Dec. 31, after receiving a notice of termination in October.

McMillan, a popular campus figure who leads the “Black and Blue Tour” that details UNC’s racial history, was who Wainstein said was “the faculty member who had the clearest opportunity to learn about these classes.”

The report said McMillan and Crowder were very close, with Crowder helping McMillan get rehired at Chapel Hill after he left for a period of time. Crowder even helped proofread McMillan’s dissertation when he was a graduate student in the department during the late 1980s.

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“McMillan acknowledged there were times when he would be sitting in Crowder’s office and she would hand him a paper and ask him to ‘eyeball’ it and tell her what grade it deserved,” the report said.

“McMillan would do as requested, once again without questioning why an office administrator would be deciding on grades.”

Finally, the report also said McMillan’s signature was on grade sheets for several known paper classes.

“I don't know why (my signature) is there, but it is there," McMillan told Wainstein.

Lee and Bridger

According to a press release from the University, Jaimie Lee received a discontinuation of service with notice from UNC on Oct. 22, which allowed her 30 days to contest to the decision. Lee decided not to appeal and was therefore fired officially on Nov. 21.

Beth Bridger was the associate director of football for the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes at UNC and most recently was employed as an academic counselor for several teams at UNC Wilmington before being fired for her role in funneling players to the bogus classes to maintain their eligibility.

Lee was an academic counselor for the football team; she and Bridger are most notable for their now-infamous presentation they showed to the coaches of the football team in November of 2009 — after Crowder had already retired.

The presentation outlined how players were able to stay eligible because of these classes as well as expressing the concerns of the football counselors about the future.

In a slide titled “What was part of the solution in the past,” Lee and Bridger told the coaches that players did not have to attend class, stay awake, take notes, or even necessarily engage with the material.

“THESE CLASSES NO LONGER EXIST,” the slide said at the bottom.

Lee and Bridger were found by Wainstein and his team to have known about every aspect of the paper class scheme.

Six still under review

UNC’s press release today said six employees are still facing disciplinary review and their names will be released following the completion of the review process. The four terminated individuals who were originally referenced by Folt more than two months were the only names the University released.

The release from the University today says Provost Jim Dean and Felicia Washington, the vice chancellor for workforce strategy, equity and engagement, will lead the review process.

The review process began immediately following the Oct. 22 release and has been progressing according to the press release.

The two sides went to mediation under the orders of Donald Stephens, chief superior judge in Wake County, who heard the original hearing two weeks ago.

Stephens said during the hearing he was troubled when Folt announced that she was taking action against individuals without naming them.

"It’s one thing to say a terrible thing has happened and heads will roll, but I’m not going to tell you what happened and whose heads," he said.

While the University has not released the names of the six employees facing disciplinary review, a source familiar with the situation was able to identify five of the six employees facing to The Daily Tar Heel on Oct. 23.

The source said Bobbi Owen, Alphonse Mutima, Corey Holliday, Travis Gore and Brent Blanton will all face disciplinary action for their role in the paper class scheme.