The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, April 17, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Reports: UNC graduate school implicated in academic scandal

Cheryl Thomas, the former graduate school admissions director from 2002-10, has re-opened the wounds the University hoped were beginning to heal.

Thomas shared documents with the News & Observer in January that showed UNC administrators broke standard protocol to admit former UNC football player Michael Waddell into the Exercise and Sports Science graduate program in 2003.

Waddell had a low GPA and no GRE score when he applied months after the application deadline. Linda Dykstra, the former graduate school dean, let Waddell into the graduate program after then-senior associate athletic director John Blanchard’s request.

Thomas told the News & Observer that former basketball player Justin Knox was also admitted after the application deadline in 2010 to play for his fourth eligible year in accordance with NCAA rules.

Kevin Guskiewicz, the graduate studies director for the Exercise and Sport Science Department, was also included in the e-mails.

He, along with Dr. Fred Mueller, then-chairman for the department, requested Waddell’s admission into the graduate program as a “non-degree seeking student.”

In January 2004, after Waddell was expelled from the school in December 2003 due to failing classes and poor class attendance, Guskiewicz sent an email to Blanchard expressing his anger with Waddell’s performance.

“Four months later, we now look foolish,” he wrote in 2004.

Kenneth Wainstein’s report, released in October, laid out his extensive investigation into the almost two decades of academic-athletic misconduct at UNC.

The report looked into “less rigorous” classes within the Exercise and Sport Science undergraduate program, but found no paper classes or academic fraud. The report did not mention graduate programs in any department.

The supplemental documents to the report point to what could be considered irregularities in the Exercise and Sport Science department.

In a string of emails between football academic counselors and Deborah Stroman, a professor in the Exercise and Sport Science department, the counselors said students could go to Stroman for a “paper class” — a bogus class that had no attendance requirements and only a single assignment.

Stroman currently teaches first-year seminars on sports entrepreneurship. In the past, she has taught sports administration classes for the department’s graduate program.

On Monday, Guskiewicz said in an email to The Daily Tar Heel that he has no issue with the admissions committee’s past decisions.

“I am highly confident that our department’s admissions committee has always carefully considered every admissions case before making a recommendation to the Graduate School,” he said in his statement, which was given to The Daily Tar Heel through Rick White, a spokesman for UNC.

White said in an e-mail that exceptions for certain graduate applicants are normal, adding that all applicants to UNC’s graduate school are reviewed under the same process, which has been in place since Steve Matson, the current dean of UNC’s graduate school, replaced Dykstra in 2008. Matson was at the helm when Knox was admitted in 2010.

“Because graduate education is highly individualized, it’s not unusual for exceptions to the admissions process to be made by committees representing an academic department or school,” he said in a statement.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.