Investigation reveals academic scandal at UNC
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A three-month long investigation into academic fraud at the University of North Carolina revealed that student-athletes were not given added academic benefits as part of a scandal within the school’s African and Afro-American Studies Department.
Rather, students at large benefited from anomalies specific to the department, such as unauthorized grade changes, forged faculty signatures on grade rolls and limited or no class time.
“This was not an athletic scandal,” former North Carolina governor Jim Martin told UNC’s Board of Trustees. “It was an academic scandal, which is worse.”
The independent investigation, headed by Martin, shows that that irregularities in the African and Afro-American Studies Department went back farther than an original probe revealed — to the fall of 1997.
However, according to the report presented to the Board on Thursday, no academic misconduct or other anomalies were found outside the AFAM department.
Martin continued to reveal his findings to UNC’s Board of Trustees on Thursday morning; a news conference was scheduled for the early afternoon.
In May, UNC publicly announced an internal probe that found that 54 classes in the Department of Afro- and African-American Studies were either “aberrant” or “irregularly” taught from the summer of 2007 to the summer of 2011.
UNC said no student received a grade without submitting written work. But more than 50 percent of the students in those suspect classes were athletes. As first reported by The Raleigh News Observer, one class in the summer of 2011 had an enrollment of 19 — 18 football players and one former football player.
In late July, a faculty committee looking into the scandal issued a new report stating that academic counselors assigned to the athletes may have pushed them into those classes.
In August, a partial transcript of former two-sport star Julius Peppers was uncovered by North Carolina State message board posters on UNC’s web site. His alleged low grades and class choices raised questions about how far problems in the AFAM program go back.
That put more pressure on school chancellor Holden Thorp and UNC to dig deeper into the academic misconduct, and thus look to Martin and consulting firm Baker-Tilly to investigate further with the independent review.
A school official said the Martin Report was forwarded to the NCAA on Thursday morning; it’s unclear when or if the organization will respond.
UNC says it shared the results of its original internal probe with the NCAA before the NCAA sanctioned the football program for improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor last March.
UNC again updated the NCAA enforcement staff on Aug. 23 about the AFAM situation, and the school released a statement a week later that said: “The NCAA staff reaffirmed to university officials that no NCAA rules appeared to have been broken.”