Education

Boxill defense claims she gave no special help to UNC players

Jan Boxill, former chair of the UNC faculty, teaching professor of philosophy and academic adviser to the UNC women's basketball team, issued a strongly worded denial of NCAA allegations that she provided impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball players at the university on Tuesday.
Jan Boxill, former chair of the UNC faculty, teaching professor of philosophy and academic adviser to the UNC women's basketball team, issued a strongly worded denial of NCAA allegations that she provided impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball players at the university on Tuesday. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Jan Boxill, the former UNC-Chapel Hill philosophy professor and academic counselor to women’s basketball players, has issued a strongly worded denial of NCAA allegations that she provided impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball players at the university.

In a 54-page response, Boxill’s attorney, Randall Roden, wrote: “It did not happen. Not one of the Allegations against Jan Boxill is true.”

Boxill’s response, obtained by The News & Observer, previews the battle ahead at an NCAA infractions hearing in the coming months. The NCAA has focused many of its accusations against Boxill and women’s basketball, without mentioning specifically football and men’s basketball, whose athletes were also enrolled in the suspect African and Afro-American Studies classes that never met.

UNC was due to submit its response Monday to the NCAA’s April 25 amended Notice of Allegations (NOA), which charged the university and three former employees, including Boxill, with five Level I violations, considered the most serious. The university is expected to release its response publicly on Tuesday.

Boxill’s response said that her help to students was not to gain a competitive advantage for athletes but to help them succeed in college. The examples raised by the NCAA focused on women’s athletes who were facing personal crises and needed extra attention, the response said. Boxill provided the same type of teaching and mentoring to disadvantaged students who were not athletes, her attorney said.

  

“Jan Boxill’s interactions with students were conscientious efforts on her part to teach students by meeting and talking to them for hours and hours, monitoring their progress, explaining and critiquing their work, correcting their mistakes and helping them learn how to do college level academic work,” Roden wrote.

“The bitter irony is that the handful of examples that UNC and the NCAA have chosen to question involve students whose personal life circumstances were unimaginably horrible,” the statement continued. “It was not because they were athletes that they needed, and got, extraordinary devotion and extra attention – it was because they were students who needed and deserved a college education. They were not going to survive in the University with the daily challenge of dealing with their life circumstances.”

[UNC responds to Notice of Allegations: questions and answers]

[Former UNC-CH faculty leader Jan Boxill refutes NCAA allegations against her]

Further, emails show a distorted picture of the back-and-forth between Boxill and her students, the response said. Roden said that the text the NCAA suggested had been improperly written by Boxill was, in reality, from the students themselves.

The allegations of misconduct and unethical behavior against Boxill, the response said, “are factually wrong in every instance” when examined individually.

I didn’t write their papers. I didn’t change things in the sense of content.

Jan Boxill, former UNC-Chapel Hill philosophy professor and academic counselor to women’s basketball players

The document redacts the names of student athletes to protect their identity. It said the students involved did not gain an unfair competitive advantage as athletes or for the UNC team. Any benefits were educational and not substantial or extensive, the response argues, and therefore allegations against Boxill should be classified as less serious Level II allegations.

Boxill explained in 2015 interviews with the NCAA that she made suggestions to students, or showed them passages as examples.

“I didn’t write their papers,” she said, according to an excerpt of the transcript. “I didn’t change things in the sense of content.”

The response offers detailed responses to the allegations of help to individual students. For example, Boxill is accused of providing a bibliography about Title IX for a student’s paper. The annotated bibliography in question was provided by Boxill freely outside her office to anyone who wanted it, to be used as a starting point on Title IX resources. “There was nothing inappropriate or improper about supplying the bibliography to a student – even if the student was an athlete,” the response contends. The student was instructed to read some of the materials on the list and then create a bibliography on her own.

In another example, Boxill is accused of providing a student an introduction to a paper. The introduction was about hip-hop music, but, according to the response, the student in question was actually interested in writing on another topic, children’s literature and black history. The text provided by Boxill, written by another student, was meant as a sample to show how an introduction could be done.

The student was questioned about her interaction with Boxill by NCAA enforcement staffer Kathy Sulentic, who asked: “Would she do editing? Would she cross words out? Would she say, “This word’s misspelled? What would she do?”

The unidentified student answered: “I pretty much did my own papers, so she didn’t write on my papers. She may have gave me some advice on, you know, how I probably can word it differently, but I did all my work.”

The transcripts quoted in the document provide a glimpse into the investigative process of the NCAA.

Sulentic followed up: “So at any point did she ever write a part of your paper during your career here at North Carolina?”

The student responded: “Abolutely not.”

The transcripts quoted in the document provide a glimpse into the investigative process of the NCAA.

Last year, an NCAA questioner sought to pin down Boxill on the extent of her help to students, according to the document. “Where is the line?” the NCAA enforcement staffer asked. “Help me understand in your mind where the line is between helping, genuinely helping a student, and crossing the line to doing something that’s impermissible, whether it’s NCAA impermissible or institution impermissible?”

Boxill responded: “I never thought of anything I ever did was impermissible.”

She also said she knew nothing about irregular classes in AFAM, or that an office manager, Deborah Crowder, was grading students’ papers.

Roden also argued that the NCAA process was unfair, by presenting emails out of context and not providing Boxill with her own voluminous email records in order to mount a defense. He said a statute of limitations should apply, as Boxill was grilled on emails that were 10 years old.

“The emails were selectively datamined with the express purpose of raising additional possible claims, but with no effort to permit the opposing party similar access in order to demonstrate her innocence,” the response said.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill

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