UNC-Chapel Hill men’s basketball coach Roy Williams said Thursday that he saw no issue in six of his players enrolling in a naval weapons class that was filled mostly with athletes and had no quizzes or exams.
“I would have loved to have taken something like that (on naval weapons), and I don’t think it’s an aberration,” Williams said at a news conference to discuss the coming season.
Chancellor Holden Thorp has referred the NAVS 302 class, taught in spring 2007, to an investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin that is looking into academic improprieties. Thorp said the class’s heavy enrollment of athletes – 30 out of 38 students – was an example of clustering, an issue universities track because it could be an indication of athletes being directed to classes that help them remain eligible to play as opposed to working toward a meaningful degree.
One of the basketball players who took the class, Bobby Frasor, said in an interview last week that the instructor, Lt. Brian Lubitz, told academic counselors assigned to the basketball team about the class, and the counselors then recommended it to the basketball players. The class grade was largely based on a two- to three-page paper and a 20-minute oral presentation that was split among groups of five students. Students averaged a grade of 3.63, or nearly an A minus.
The current head of the Naval Science Department at UNC, Capt. Doug Wright, said the course work requirements in the class had troubled his predecessor, Capt. Stephen Matts, so much that Matts told subsequent instructors he wanted them changed. Course outlines later showed quizzes, tests and papers or presentations.
Wright said he would have made the same changes because the class as structured under Lubitz would make it hard to know whether the students were learning the material. Lubitz, who taught the class only once before leaving the university, has not responded to interview requests.
Classes without tests
Williams said he saw no issue with lack of exams and quizzes. He said when he was a student at UNC, he took a guidance counseling class in which the grade was based on “participation in class and role play.”
“We didn’t have any tests,” Williams said. “I don’t know what (Lubitz’s) deal was. If he felt like he was teaching something and they were learning what he wanted, then he must have felt good about doing it that way, just like me. I feel good about teaching my guys without making them watch tape for six hours a day.”
Williams also said he did not have a problem with academic counselors tasked with helping athletes get their class work done also recommending classes for them to take. A recent faculty report on the academic fraud scandal involving no-show classes within the Department of African and Afro-American Studies found that to be a problem.
Class selection is supposed to be the job of academic advisers who have no reporting requirement to the athletic department, as the counselors did until two months ago.
Williams offered little new information regarding the no-show classes, repeating earlier statements that acknowledged mistakes were made. He has offered few specifics about basketball players’ involvement in the classes.
An internal review of the past four years found that basketball players accounted for 23 enrollments in African studies classes that never met. All of those enrollments took place from summer 2007 through summer 2009.
In at least two cases, a basketball player was the sole enrollee in a no-show class. One of those classes was for learning Swahili.
Other records indicate the no-show classes could have gone back as far as the late 1990s. A 2001 transcript belonging to Julius Peppers, a football and basketball star at UNC who is now a defensive end for the Chicago Bears, showed that he received Bs or better in classes that the internal probe identified as suspect in later years, and he did poorly in most others. Williams became coach in 2003, after Peppers had left the university.
“I’ve said thousands of times – no, that’s an exaggeration – but several times that, you know, the investigation has brought up some things that we’re not proud of, that we’re not happy about,” Williams said. “But I think it is a very small problem that we’ve got to take care of, and I think we are doing it. But to answer your question, I’m sort of tired of answering those questions.”
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