But she’s also one of the key figures implicated in UNC’s athletic-academic scandal, according to the findings of Kenneth Wainstein’s independent investigation.
Owen, who served as senior associate dean for undergraduate education from 2005 to 2014, had some knowledge of the paper class scheme.
On Friday, Owen — whom a source familiar with the situation confirmed is still undergoing disciplinary review — spoke to The Daily Tar Heel for the first time since the Oct. 22 release of the Wainstein report, referring all questions about her administrative life to her attorney.
“I’d be happy to talk about being a professor of dramatic art,” she said.
Raleigh lawyer Doug Kingsbery said Owen retained his services in fall 2014 and declined to be more specific about the date he was hired.
Kingsbery said he could not describe why he was retained as Owen’s lawyer.
“I hope to, soon,” he said.
Wainstein’s report details how Owen noticed the number of independent studies in the former Department of African and Afro-American Studies — specifically the impossibly high number of classes being offered by former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro.
“In 2006, Owen apparently knew that the AFAM Department was enrolling far too many students in independent studies and told Nyang’oro to limit the numbers and ‘rein’ Crowder in,” the report stated.
“Owen was also advised by then-Dean of Academic Advising Carolyn Cannon of her concern that signatures on grade change forms purportedly signed by Nyang’oro had actually been signed by someone else.”
Owen provided Cannon with a sample of Nyang’oro’s signature so that she could compare and verify it on future grade forms, but otherwise “took no further action and apparently never shared the concerns ... with anybody above her in the administration,” the report stated.
Owen said Friday she plans to retire in the next three to five years.
In October, The Daily Tar Heel confirmed the names of eight of the nine UNC employees placed under review in the immediate aftermath of the Wainstein report. Owen is the only tenured faculty member of the nine under review.
Kingsbery would not confirm whether Owen is under University review. He said neither he nor Owen would comment on whether the Wainstein report characterized her accurately.
Owen spent the fall 2014 semester away from campus on a research leave awarded by the provost’s office, said University spokesman Jim Gregory.
Though the report was released about six months ago, Owen has not been fired, and UNC has made no announcements about her review.
This semester, Owen has been in her office every day, Kingsbery said.
“She’s there in her office on campus every day, seeing students, doing her normal work, and the administration knows right where she is, has all my contact information. I don’t think they’ve been looking for her,” he said.
Owen is not teaching a class this semester, according to ConnectCarolina.
Owen, according to her resume, has worked at UNC since 1974. She served as associate dean of academic services and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences before working as senior associate dean for undergraduate education.
She said she has published seven books and has two more under contract, but she wants to write one more before she retires. She is still deciding on the last book’s topic.
“Ten seems like a good number, doesn’t it? Double digits,” she said.