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N.C. Opinions: Raleigh

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New UNC Chapel Hill academic review right step

From a News & Observer editorial on Monday.

Kenneth Wainstein, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Justice Department, has been called in to conduct an independent investigation of the academic/athletics scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Wainstein served as a white-collar federal prosecutor, as homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush and as the first assistant U.S. attorney general for national security. He is now a partner in a Washington law firm and well-regarded as a tough and thorough lawyer.

Wainstein was named by UNC system President Tom Ross and UNCCH Chancellor Carol Folt.

At times, over the now years-long controversy first surrounding the football program and evolving into a scandal involving bogus classes in the African studies department that catered to athletes, the university has acted as if it simply had a public relations problem. Clearly, Folt believes the university has been hurt by this scandal and is ready to face up to it.

Ross, who has been too quiet about the scandal, has taken a good step here.

An earlier investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin concluded that the academic scandal was confined to African studies and appeared to put all responsibility on former African studies department chair Julius Nyang’oro and department manager Deborah Crowder. It shed little light on the scandal and pronounced the problems confined to academics.

A probe by Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall led to indictments. Apparently it was evidence turned up by Woodall that prompted this review.

Mary Willingham, the former academic adviser for athletes now working in a different department, was the staff member who pointed out problems. Willingham stirred a hornet’s nest when she said her research of some athletes’ academic qualifications turned up many who could not read adequately and, in fact, one athlete who could not read at all.

Wainstein needs to look at everything, including athletes’ transcripts and their connections to the phony classes. And the university needs to release all of his findings, even if they prove embarrassing.

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