No-show classes and poorly managed independent studies within UNC-Chapel Hills African and Afro-American studies department stretch back at least to 1997, according to a report Thursday morning from a former North Carolina governor.
The review found 216 courses with proven or potential problems, the report said, and included 454 suspected unauthorized grade changes.
Jim Martin released his report to university trustees Thursday morning after he and a national management consulting firm, Baker Tilly, spent more than three months compiling nearly 20 years of enrollment data, reviewing records and interviewing dozens of students, staff and officials connected to an academic fraud scandal that emerged in May.
Thats when UNC officials reported that 54 lecture-style classes within the African studies department over the past four years never actually met and required only a paper turned in at the end of the semester. Their report also found that independent studies in the department were not properly tracked.
The report found no problems beyond the African studies department.
Wade Hargrove, chairman of the board of trustees, said Thursday morning that portions of the report were painful.
The indiscretions, failures, and irregularities strike at the heart of the core values of the university, he said in prepared remarks. In facing and correcting these lapses, we honor more than 200 years of commitment by members of the faculty, the staff, and the administration past and present to assure that every student who comes here receives a rigorous, challenging and meaningful academic experience. These irregularities must never be allowed to occur again.
Chancellor Holden Thorp commissioned Martins report after other evidence emerged showing the no-show classes stretched back further, possibly into the late 1990s. A UNC-CH graduate provided emails to the News & Observer suggesting a 2005 class was turned into a no-show class, and a transcript for Julius Peppers suggested he had been in no-show classes and suspect independent studies while a student from 1998 to 2002. Peppers, a two-sport star who now plays for the NFLs Chicago Bears, has denied through his agent taking part in any academic fraud.
Peppers did not graduate, and his transcript shows he scored Bs or better in African studies courses that, when reviewed for the 2007-2011 period, were found to lack academic integrity.
Thorp and other university officials have said the academic fraud rests solely with the former longtime department chairman, Julius Nyangoro, and his former department manager Deborah Crowder, who retired in 2009. Nyangoro resigned in August 2011 when the irregularities were first discovered, then was forced into retirement in June. The UNC probe also turned up unauthorized grade changes and other documents that falsely claimed other professors had taught some of the classes.
Much of the scandal has centered on how the classes were used by the universitys academic support program for athletes. UNC records show athletes accounted for nearly two-thirds of the enrollments in the 54 no-show classes, and other documents obtained by the N&O show Nyangoro worked with the support program to make them available to athletes.
A class Nyangoro launched four days before the beginning of a summer semester in 2011, for example, was filled by football players and a former player.
Mary Willingham, a former reading specialist for the academic support program until 2010, said staff knew they were using the classes to help keep athletes who were poor students eligible to play sports.
Thorp and other UNC-CH officials have said the suspect classes are not an NCAA concern because non-athletes had also enrolled in them and were treated equally. The officials have never presented evidence to back up their equal treatment claims.
Other records obtained by The N&O show that one football player, Marvin Austin, was enrolled in a no-show class and received a B-plus before beginning his first full semester as a freshman with a slate of introductory courses that included remedial writing. Another football player, Michael McAdoo, had been in three no-show classes before he began his sophomore year.
Martins probe is one of five into the academic fraud that are either under way or soon to begin. The SBI is investigating after the N&O reported that Nyangoro had received $12,000 in summer pay for the 2011 class, and last week the association that provides UNC-CH with its accreditation said it plans to send a special committee in the coming months to look into how the university is cleaning up what the association described as a possible lack of rigor and adequate work by athletes taking African studies courses.
The NCAA has yet to announce an investigation, but its president has said it is monitoring the local reviews. Some experts have said theres enough evidence of possible NCAA violations to warrant an investigation.
Martin is a former U.S. congressman who began his career as a chemistry professor at Davidson College. He also served a term on the UNC Board of Governors. It has a special panel reviewing UNC-CHs internal ongoing investigation, and Martin plans to give the panel a presentation later Thursday afternoon.