Poorly Led & Hopelessly Lost


In a recent Daily Tar Heel (DTH) article about the fallout from the Wainstein report, UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham was quoted as saying: “At some point we’ve got to move forward. And I think we’re to that point.”

No, we’re not to that point. We’re not even close to that point. Today and every day for the next week, we @paperclassinc will list the top eight reasons (in no particular order) UNC-Chapel Hill must submit to additional repair work before it seeks to re-launch the flagship. Check back in the days ahead for our follow-ups:


Reason #1 We can’t stop being dishonest, even when explaining past dishonesty.

UNC’s official response to queries by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), refused to come to terms with the history of institutional dishonesty that SACS officers detected in the Wainstein report. While reading Wainstein, SACS officials noticed that Senior Associate Dean Bobbi Owen had failed to disclose to them in 2013 all that she had known in earlier years about the enormous reach of the AFRI/AFAM independent study scam; they also noted that another unidentified official had also withheld information during the 2013 SACS review. Chancellor Folt herself was evidently so bothered by Wainstein’s revelations about Owen’s knowledge of Debby Crowder shenanigans in 2006 that she immediately placed Owen under “disciplinary review” on the day the Wainstein report was released. Amazingly, however, in response to the SACS allegation about Owen’s lack of forthrightness in 2013 the University said, in effect, “we don’t know what you’re talking about.” To be specific, the Chancellor responded as follows: “The University does not have transcripts of what was said and by whom during the meetings [in 2013], and we are not able otherwise to reconstruct the meetings at that level of detail” (p. 31). In other words, if you expect us to make amends because Owen supposedly lied to you, you’re going to have to prove it first!!

There are many instances of deception in the response to SACS—the University claims, perversely, that before 2006 there was no limit on the number of independent study courses students could take, and it also claims that there is “no evidence” for improprieties outside of AFRI/AFAM (what about Jan Boxill in Philosophy?)—but the greatest of all deceptions is the claim that the University had always been fully forthright and transparent throughout the management of its scandal. The institution’s ability to uncover the truth, the respondents say, had simply been impeded by Debby Crowder’s refusal to talk to the authorities. Her decision to offer testimony to Orange County DA Jim Woodall in late 2013 was “monumental,” the University claims, since Crowder and Julius Nyang’oro were “the only two individuals” positioned to explain “the full scope and extent” of past academic wrongdoing and its connection to athletics. This is a blatant falsehood evidently designed to distract attention from basic and embarrassing realities. It’s not that the University could not have known the full extent of the fraud committed by Crowder, Nyang’oro and their friends in athletics. It’s that the University did not want to know, and in fact actively refused to know information fully within its grasp. Administrators from Holden Thorp and Karen Gil down to Carol Folt and Jim Dean always had access to student transcripts; they always had access to emails exchanged between Debby Crowder and academic counselors Beth Bridger, Jaimie Lee and Wayne Walden; they always had access to the counselors themselves, who should have been interrogated at length but never were; they always had access to Chair of the Faculty Jan Boxill, who was the deepest of deep insiders in the athletic program and a longtime friend of Crowder; most glaringly, they always had access to MW @paperclassinc who eagerly sought opportunities to tell leaders all she knew about the “full scope and extent” of the corruption in the academic support program for student athletes (ASPSA). Had they chosen to do so, and had they responded to faculty prodding, the University’s leaders could easily have determined the full extent of the scandalous wrongdoing committed in Chapel Hill between the early 1990s and 2012. But they chose to look the other way, to offer half-truths, to hope the bad news would blow over, to ignore the hard realities staring them in the face, and to do what was necessary to protect the athletic department from harsh NCAA sanctions.

SACS is likely to give UNC a pass once again, since that is standard form for accrediting agencies. But it is disappointing, at this moment in the institution’s history, to see UNC respond to SACS’s questions with disingenuous misdirection and an insistence that all problems have already been fixed. The document the Chancellor and Provost have produced only compounds the many errors made between 2010 and 2013 because it seeks to cover up the cover-up. Such institutional behavior—such troubling evidence that the institution has learned nothing about forthrightness and accountability—proves that we have no firm basis for “moving forward.”



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