Is criminal investigation next step at UNC?
by Rachel George, USA TODAY Sports
North Carolina’s academic fraud investigations have yet to spark a probe from the NCAA. But one state senator would like to see them start a criminal investigation.
Republican state senator Thom Goolsby wrote on Tuesday that the university’s continued academic integrity issues merit a tougher approach.
“The reputation of the state’s flagship university is at stake and someone must take this matter seriously,” Goolsby wrote on his blog, Carolina Columns. “Any prosecutor worth his salt would turn detectives loose on staff and administrators involved in the fraud and subsequent cover-up. If necessary, the General Assembly could consider legislation to make prosecuting this type of academic fraud easier.”
The university has been mired in athletic and academic-related scandals for two years. Among those has been the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA), which was subject of an internal review a year ago.
On Saturday, The News & Observer in Raleigh published a story detailing a system that tolerated cheating. Mary Willingham, a reading specialist at UNC, detailed encounters with athletes who had never read a book or were incapable of writing a paragraph.
The academic support program tolerated plagiarism and helped athletes remain eligible, Willingham told the paper.
“The UNC academic fraud scandal is like a pesky staph infection that just won’t go away for university officials — nor should it,” Goolsby wrote. “As reporters at the Raleigh News and Observer continue to dig, they uncover more and more dirty little secrets. The latest problems swirl around a pus pocket called the Academic Support Program.”
Willingham’s assertions are backed up by several investigations. An internal review at the school found 54 aberrant classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM), largely populated by football and men’s basketball players, received little or no instruction.
A committee of three faculty members reviewed three of UNC’s investigations and suggested that ASPSA steered athletes to no-show classes to keep them eligible.
According to the News & Observer, those no-show classes had been offered as far back as 2003 when Willingham joined the program. The paper’s reporting has suggested that those classes go back as far as the late 1990s.