In October 2014, the public was given what was considered the end of UNC’s yearslong academic-athletic scandal: independent investigator Kenneth Wainstein’s report.
The results were striking — 18 years of fake African studies classes disproportionately helping athletes.
But since the release of the $3.1 million report, University reports, NCAA notices and supplementary records have challenged the narrative created by Wainstein.
A Daily Tar Heel review found an opaque and conflicting version of what actually constitutes UNC’s academic-athletic scandal.
NOA vs. Wainstein vs. SACS
Monday’s Notice of Allegations did not include men’s basketball and football or the “impermissible benefits” from the first May notice.
When asked about changes, Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said on a Monday conference call that the notice was created by the NCAA. But the investigation was a joint one by UNC and NCAA officials.
The changes are not limited to differences between the two notices. Wainstein’s report differs from the notices, which both say the inappropriate relationship between the athletic tutors and the former Department of African and Afro-American Studies began post-2000. Wainstein dates fraudulent courses to 1993.
Wainstein’s team noted the two revenue-producing teams were also the ones that abused the paper classes the most.
Of the 3,100 enrollment in fraudulent classes in the African studies department, Wainstein said 47 percent were student-athletes — and more than half of them were football players. Men’s basketball, a team that carries around 15 players a year, accounted for more than 12 percent of student-athlete enrollments, Wainstein said.
“These paper classes were taken by students of all types, but were especially popular among student-athletes, particularly those who played the ‘revenue’ sports of football and men’s basketball,” Wainstein’s report said.
The amended notice focused on the women’s basketball team and the impermissible academic assistance permission given to them by former tutor and faculty chairperson Jan Boxill. Wainstein’s report said women’s basketball accounted for 6 percent of the paper class enrollments — half of its male equivalent.
The NCAA did not respond to requests for comment.
Three different start dates are presented in the notice, Wainstein’s report and UNC’s report to its accrediting agency in January 2015.
The 223-page response to the agency identified an earlier start date to irregular courses than Wainstein’s 1993 date, which was garned through interviews with paper class scheme creators Deborah Crowder and Julius Nyang’oro.
The most recent NCAA notice states athletic tutors began steering men’s basketball players to paper classes in the African studies department in the fall of 2005 — three years after it said the relationship started in August notice.
Wainstein’s team, through a spokesperson, declined to respond to request to comment.
Emails show academic counselors swayed athletes toward taking courses with specific professors in the Romance Languages and English departments — an item not included in Wainstein’s 136-page report or UNC’s 222-page Southern Association of Colleges and Schools response.
English professor Marc Cohen, who appears in several emails used to create the Wainstein report, said he works closely with athletic counselors.
Cohen said his experience teaching rhetoric and composition to athletes served as the basis for his nomination to the Faculty Athletics Committee, from which he later resigned.
“I have taught many underprepared students during my UNC career,” Cohen said in an email last week. “Most of the email exchanges in the Wainstein records in which I am a participant relate to specific student-athletes who, for a variety of reasons, were struggling in my classes.”
Cohen said he was never contacted by Wainstein or his team in relation to their investigation, but emails included in the report show Cohen maintained irregular involvement with student-athletes, even proposing a special section of his class.
“Here is what I’m wondering: Is there any chance that we could set up a section ... that would be restricted to your football players and/or other recruited athletes,” Cohen said in an email to former tutor Beth Bridger.
Though Bridger was strongly in favor of the idea at the time, the proposal for an athletes-only English class was never carried out, Cohen said last week. He also said he would no longer be in favor of such a class, though he declined to explain why.
For athletes, languages like Spanish and French weren’t favored by counselors, who often directed them to Portuguese, Swahili and Wolof language courses.
“If you don’t take any (placement) exam, you’ll take Swahili 1, 2 & 3. Just so you know,” Boxill said in an email to an incoming student.
In response to a 2012 New York Times column, Kenan-Flagler professor Deborah Stroman wrote in an email, “I reviewed the Nocera article with my first-year seminar students (99 percent are student-athletes ...) and the only concern they expressed was the fact that Nocera called out the wrong language — Swahili instead of Portuguese!”
The message was sent over a listserv that history professor Jay Smith created for faculty and staff members interested in athletic reform, which included Boxill, and was separate from the University’s Faculty Athletics Committee.
In the same email chain, former UNC professor Laurie Maffly-Kipp said, “One (athlete) mentions that he had wanted to take French. But there was no ‘approved’ tutor for French. He says that he was steered towards either Portuguese or Swahili, because tutors were available in those languages.”
Two former heads of the romance languages department, Erika Lindeman and Larry King, who led the department from 2003 to 2016, declined to comment on the findings of the Wainstein report and the emails.
Another Wainstein supplementary document indicated tutors may have had more autonomy over the paper classes than originally reported.
“Heard from Debbie (Crowder) and she said it’s up to us to keep the independent study papers or not. I vote yes, and I can handle if you want,” said a 2009 email exchange between Bridger and former tutor Jaimie Lee.
Wainstein’s report says the African studies department was the only one involved in the scandal, but emails and records show potential misconduct in other departments.
Records obtained by The Daily Tar Heel say Boxill taught 160 independent study classes between Spring 2004 and Spring 2012.
In his October 2014 termination letter to Boxill, Provost Jim Dean wrote it appeared Boxill allowed student to enroll in her philosophy independent study classes “that involved minimal academic expectations and that were offered at times to accommodate student-athletes.”
Boxill refutes claims that she taught all 160 independent study classes, according to her lawyer Randall Roden. Boxill served as the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Philosophy from 1994 to 2006, and she says at the time, it was common practice to have all independent studies listed under the director’s name.
Current Associate Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy Matthew Kotzen confirmed that in some semesters prior to 2011, students enrolled in independent studies might be officially registered in a course with the director of undergraduate studies even though their work was being supervised by another faculty member.
University spokesperson Jim Gregory declined to elaborate on the allegations against Boxill found in the termination letter.
Boxill’s lawyer said she taught more independent studies because she was willing to put in extra time — especially for underprivileged students.
“The majority were not for athletes,” Roden said in an interview on Monday.
An unidentified student emailed Boxill with the subject line “GEOG Indepedent Study” to find out where to send their paper.
“I will print it off and deliver it to the geography department. I’m calling to see if you can send them directly to John Florin, but no one is answering the phone,” she replied.