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Saturday January 28th

Boxill’s role in academic scandal still under fire

Jan Boxill
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Boxill taught 160 independent study courses in the philosophy department during eight years as a senior lecturer at the University, an unusually high number, according to the philosophy department chairman, who could count on one hand the number of independent studies he’s taught.

Boxill could not be reached for comment.

In his letter of intent to discharge, Provost Jim Dean wrote to Boxill that it appeared she allowed students to be enrolled in philosophy courses that “involved minimal academic expectations and that were offered at times to accommodate student-athletes.”

Dean declined to comment, saying in an email, “The letter speaks for itself.”

Chancellor Carol Folt said in an interview last week she believes the academic irregularities were contained to the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

“Jan Boxill’s a professor, and she is allowed to give independent studies,” Folt said. “And I think as (Wainstein was) reviewing it they could look at them, but I don’t think they had any reason to think that Jan Boxill did not grade her own independent studies, and that’s the real issue.”

Ultimately the Wainstein report was an opinion, Folt said, and Wainstein put forward his ideas.

“When Wainstein wrote that allegation, it wasn’t even clear that those independent studies that she did do were not good,” she said. “We had nothing to do with what Wainstein said. So he could have gone as deep as he wanted into the philosophy department, into any department, and he saw and did not believe that he needed to.”

Boxill’s role in the UNC scandal included steering athletes to fraudulent courses, suggesting grades to former administrative assistant Deborah Crowder, according to the Wainstein report.

Wainstein’s team of investigators became aware of Boxill’s independent studies after reviewing her emails and following up with the Office of the University Registrar, said Joseph Jay, one of Wainstein’s investigators, who is an attorney at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. The team determined they were not irregular because Boxill was a member of the faculty, unlike Crowder.

"... A secretary grading students’ papers is very different than a faculty member grading the work,” Jay said in an email. Boxill’s courses didn’t fit Crowder’s pattern, he said, because they involved heavy faculty-student interaction.

“We saw evidence that she was calling in students to meet with her and she was communicating with them via email. She was a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

As a faculty member, Boxill would have undergone review at least every five years, according to standards of UNC’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Commission president Belle Wheelan said while the accrediting agency doesn’t have separate standards for independent studies, faculty are reviewed extensively using institutional assessments and course syllabi to ensure they are qualified to assess student learning.

If a faculty member is found to be unqualified after the full review, he or she is either removed from teaching the course or removed from the position altogether, Wheelan said.

Marc Lange, chairman of the philosophy department, said in November that independent study courses have always been pretty unusual in the department.

In 2012, UNC added new standards for its independent study courses, including that professors must limit the number they teach to two students per semester.

Timothy Cain, a higher education professor at the University of Georgia, said standards for independent studies vary based on the professor.

He said he typically doesn’t take on more than two or three per semester because of the workload, which includes meeting with students, providing feedback on products and preparing for meetings with the students.

“The most appropriate standard for an independent study is that it should be the equivalent amount of work undertaken and learning experienced as that in a regular course, although, of course, there is no one set standard for non-independent studies,’ he said in an email.

Before 2012, UNC had minimal oversight of its independent study courses.

Emails released with the Wainstein report show that athletic counselors steered students to Boxill’s independent study courses. The emails also show correspondence with Boxill between students.

In one email, Boxill relayed information from an academic advisor to a student which said the student would be eligible for graduation provided a high grade in a PHIL course.

“I just talked with Betsy Taylor in Steele Bldg, and she said she is making you a degree candidate for May,” Boxill said in the email, “and that we are correct-all you need to do to graduate is to PHIL with an A-!! And THAT will be done!!! This so great.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story did not specify the length of time during which Boxill taught at UNC. She taught independent study courses during eight years as a senior lecturer, but she was at UNC for nearly 30 years in total. The story also misrepresented Boxill's involvement in the scandal. According to the Wainstein report, she steered athletes to fraudulent courses and suggested grades to former administrative assistant Deborah Crowder.The story has been updated to reflect these changes.


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