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The Daily Tar Heel

Mary Willingham and UNC head to mediation

The former tutor says she wants her position at the University back.

Mary Willingham
Mary Willingham

“I want to work at Carolina again — I miss it, I miss Carolina, I miss working with students,” she said. “That’s what I asked for (in the suit), and that’s what I’m sticking to.”

On Monday, Willingham said her seven-month-old case will go to mediation.

In her complaint, Willingham, who resigned in May, said UNC violated Willingham’s First Amendment rights and created a hostile working environment for her — something that directly goes against the protections granted to her under the state Whistleblower Protection Act.

The complaint said the University created a hostile working environment for Willingham by demoting her, relocating her office and attacking her character.

“We believe the facts will demonstrate that Ms. Willingham was treated fairly and appropriately while she was employed at Carolina,” said Joel Curran, the vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, in a statement in July.

On Monday, Curran said the University could not offer an updated comment on pending litigation.

Willingham’s research on student-athletes with learning disabilities became national news in January 2014 after an interview with CNN. In her research, she concluded that 60 percent of the 183 athletes in her study could only read between a fourth- and eighth-grade level.

Following Willingham’s interview with CNN, the complaint said Provost Jim Dean made comments about Willingham’s character at a February faculty meeting.

Willingham’s research came under fire as an independent review board brought in by the University concluded that Willingham’s research methods were faulty and that a majority of the student-athletes in her study could read at a college level.

Her complaint states that, apart from being reinstated at her previous position, Willingham also wants “the amount of all compensatory harms, losses and damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but in excess of $10,000, plus interest.”

Willingham said she is not considering working for any other university.

“This is where I live, this is where I raised my kids, it’s the only university that I have ever worked at,” she said. “It’s the university that I love — I am a Tar Heel.”

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