Update on African and Afro-American StudiesFriday, July 20, 2012
Dear Carolina Faculty:
I am writing with important updates about what we are doing to resolve the serious problems of academic integrity that arose in our Department of African and Afro-American Studies. I hope that all of you have read the review that we released in May. It provides an account of highly unethical and unprofessional activity that is completely at odds with our values as a University community.
When I took the extraordinary step of publicly releasing our review, which contained confidential personnel information, I did so to protect the University’s integrity, to share our findings publicly and, perhaps most important, to absolve dedicated faculty in the department, which is an important part of our teaching, research and service mission, who had done nothing wrong. We disclosed this academic fraud, and we are fixing it.
Throughout this ordeal, we have asked hard questions, and we have found answers that are humiliating and painful for a University built on a commitment to academic excellence. What happened was wrong. There is no excuse and no justification for it. As chancellor, I take responsibility for it. I also take responsibility for cleaning it up and making sure it never happens again.
We have put new policies and procedures in place for independent study courses in the department, the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Summer School. In the department, under new Chair Eunice Sahle’s leadership, stronger procedures are in place for independent studies, course syllabi, exams and grading. In addition, the department has approved plans for a new curriculum and undergraduate major. In the College, teaching assignments and enrollments are being reviewed annually to ensure that standard practices are followed.
When we completed the reviews of courses and independent studies, we sent those reports to the NCAA and to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), our accrediting agency. As we expected, and as any first-rate accrediting body would do, SACS followed up with questions for us about the new academic policies and procedures, the kind of monitoring we have with our Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes and the qualifications of the people who lead our various departments. We feel good about the answers we will provide on each of those issues.
Subsequently, just this week we received a letter from SACS with the news that our fifth-year interim report was accepted with no issues. That is the highest possible ranking we could get for a report submitted as part of the 10-year accreditation timeline.
Today, we are participating in the first meeting of a UNC Board of Governors panel that is reviewing our investigation and response. Our Board of Trustees, under the direction of Chairman Wade Hargrove, is working to retain an outside third party to review and certify the new academic controls. We also are cooperating fully with the State Bureau of Investigation’s review of possible criminal activity related to how Professor Julius Nyang’oro, who stepped down as department chair last fall and has retired, taught and was paid for a 2011 summer school class.
With my support, Faculty Chair Jan Boxill and the Faculty Executive Committee appointed a three-member subcommittee to examine the reviews in response to impassioned feedback from concerned faculty. I look forward to working with the subcommittee, the FEC and the Faculty Council on the resulting recommendations. Among the possibilities are my appointing experts to help us examine the appropriate future relationship between academics and athletics at Carolina.
We welcome the involvement of the Board of Governors panel, our trustees, our faculty, and others who care about the University.
We do not know, and we may never know, what motivated Professor Nyang’oro and Deborah Crowder, the former department administrator who retired in 2009, to do what they did. Some speculate that it was about athletics because student-athletes were in most of the questionable classes. But it is not the percentage of athletes in these classes that was the problem. It is that they were not taught properly. Our professors should use a syllabus, meet face to face with students and give them the educational experience they deserve.
I would be remiss in not bringing to your attention some actions Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham has taken. In reorganizing his staff, he has hired two new senior-level administrators as part of a push to strengthen and coordinate the oversight of athletics with the College and University administration. We can expect additional efforts to better connect the athletics department with faculty on issues that affect academics.
I understand some faculty question the role of intercollegiate athletics at Carolina. I personally believe we can find the right balance, but I also know that it will be a challenge. Leaders in higher education, including our own Bill Friday and his distinguished colleagues on the Knight Commission, have been striving for 20 years to develop reforms to help all colleges and universities better integrate academics and athletics. Even after two decades, the Knight Commission acknowledges there is much work to be done. But we can do it. We have to get better. And we will.