It wont surprise many that the academic fraud at North Carolinas flagship university goes back as far as 1997. Some have speculated it goes back much further.
And many wont be surprised that the problem involved far more than the 54 African studies courses cited in earlier probes. A report from former Gov. Jim Martin released Thursday said 216 courses were involved.
But what is hard to believe is the reports conclusion that the problems were purely an academic scandal, not athletic as well, and that problems only resided in one department the African and Afro-American studies department and involved just two university employees.
Martin, though, was emphatic at Thursdays UNC board of trustees meeting:
Was it pervasive across this department? No, it was isolated to no more than two officials. Did it extend to other departments? No, it was isolated within this one department. It did not metastasize, Martin told a special meeting of the campus trustees. We were asked to get to the bottom of academic misconduct. Weve done everything in our power to do so.
Martin and Baker Tilly, the national management consulting firm the university hired, did a lot. They spent more than three months compiling nearly 20 years of enrollment data, reviewing records and interviewing dozens of students, staff and officials connected to the academic fraud scandal that emerged in May.
Yet the Martin report is more review than investigation. It mostly assessed other reports and looked for anomalies in courses across the university over a longer period than the five years covered in a May faculty review of the African and Afro-Am studies department.
The review substantiated early reports of no-show courses that disproportionate numbers of athletes took, and found 454 suspected unauthorized grade changes.
But the review team identified no confirmation of collusion between professors and the athletic departments Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes to offer fraudulent courses to athletes though it says the academic support team was aware of term paper courses where no classes met. The review team also said it could find no instances of personal gain or compensation for the two African studies employees implicated in the fraudulent courses.
Those findings leave significant unanswered questions about academic fraud. What was the impetus for the no-show classes if there was no personal gain? How did the no-show courses grow to an astounding 216 over the last 15 years, and how and why were they sustained?
Martins report does not answer those key questions nor does it address what a faculty executive committee panel in August called the UNC campus of two cultures. The panel contended student-athletes were treated differently academically from other matriculated students and that revenue athletics were seriously compromising the academic mission of the university.
The report also does not directly address charges from a former reading specialist for the academic support program that staff knew they were using the no-show classes to help keep athletes who were poor students eligible to play sports.
These are questions this report does not put to rest and that university officials must still answer. If they dont, the NCAA should in its own probe.
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