We wanted to make sure that you good folks knew about the newest developments on PJ Hairston’s excellent adventure to Durham and had a place to voice your thoughts on the matter. You can refresh a little by reading this quick piece… UNC’s top scorer P.J. Hairston charged with possession of marijuana (USAToday.com) According to [...]
The N&O’s Dan Kane and J. Andrew Curliss have some new nuggets for us to ponder, some of which has been gleaned from some internal emails from academic/athletic support staff. Nothing groundbreaking as far as the what or where, mind you. But the scope of academic fraud at UNC-CH, not to mention the length of time during which it occurred and the number of classes in which it occurred, may have just been turned on its ear.
At this point, no sane person would argue against the fact that UNC players needed academic help, but the “help” wasn’t just limited to what has already been released voluntarily, according to Kane/Curliss.
AFRI 370 is an upper-level course at UNC-Chapel Hill for seniors majoring in African and Afro-American studies and other students with a background in the study of Africa. It was touted to have “lectures, readings and research projects” on a significant problem facing African leaders or American officials tasked with African issues.
But when it came available in the spring semester of 2010, among those enrolled were several freshman football players who struggled to read and write at a college level.
There were no lectures or readings, and the class never met, one of dozens of such classes offered between 2007 and 2011. The players simply turned in a 20-page paper they produced with extensive help from tutors and oversight from counselors. That help, at times, included intense editing and material made available for use in the papers, according to records from UNC’s Academic Support Program for Student Athletes obtained by The News & Observer.
The academic support records show the depths of the trouble in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, including information the university has not revealed in its own probes, one of which did cite 54 department classes that had no lectures. For example, it did not identify AFRI 370 as a no-show class.
The documents also describe a sometimes-contentious relationship between tutors and players, with descriptions of study sessions where players wouldn’t cooperate. The university has said that the academic fraud was limited to department chairman Julius Nyang’oro and a department manager, Deborah Crowder, but the records also suggest at least one other professor in the department was aware that no-show classes existed for struggling players.
It was Nyang’oro, the longtime chairman, who gave the players and academic support staff confidence. Nyang’oro had such low expectations for these “paper classes,” as the academic support program called them, that the work largely consisted of papers stitched together with passages from the required reading materials that were then, in some instances, “paraphrased” to avoid plagiarism concerns.
In one case, it appears that a player did nothing more than copy various articles and other background information from the Internet and paste it all into a paper before turning it over to a tutor.
But no-show classes were common knowledge within the athlete support program.
“Professor Nyang’oro, Chair of the AFRI/AFAM Studies Department, has been very generous in granting several students (not just student-athletes) the opportunity to do independent study papers,” Amy Kleissler, a learning specialist with the athlete support program, wrote in a Feb. 8, 2010, email informing tutors of the AFRI 370 paper class. “Since we have worked with him in the past in this same manner I wanted to let you know that his expectations are very reasonable and very achievable for our students.”
When one tutor told the athlete support program’s assistant director, Beth Bridger, that she was discouraged with the work one football player turned in, Bridger told her not to worry.
“Just remember,” she wrote in a March 16, 2010, email, “guys are in this class for a reason – at-risk, probation, struggling students –you are making headway … keep it positive and encouraging!”
Kinda makes one wonder how many more of these “classes” weren’t previously “found”. Oh yeah. That little matter of exactly when it all started? No hard answers there either, but this paints a very….let’s just call it interesting for now….picture (bold added by me)….
Nyang’oro came to UNC in 1984 as a visiting assistant professor and became the African studies department’s chairman in 1992. University officials now admit he never received a review from a supervisor since he was elevated to that position, another institutional flaw that has since been fixed.
Until August, the university had resisted going back further than 2007 to investigate other potential academic problems in the department, so it’s difficult to assess exactly what was happening before then.
Difficult, that is, except in the case of Julius Peppers, whose transcript sat unnoticed on UNC’s website until this summer. Peppers had D’s or F’s in 11 of 30 classes, the transcript showed, and was barely eligible for football and basketball only because of a string of better grades in courses he took in the AFAM Department.
And the non athletes that were enrolled in these classes? Some of the information now coming to light seems to indicate they didn’t want to be there to begin with…
Evidence shows that some non-athletes who enrolled in the classes did so unwittingly and were dumbfounded to find the class only consisted of a paper assignment.
One such student commented about the Spring 2010 AFRI 370 no-show class on a course evaluation website known as Koofers.
“I am taking the course by submitting a paper with Prof. Nyang’oro and it is a bit daunting,” said the student, who was not identified, in a comment posted in April 2010, long before the scandal was uncovered. “It has to be between 20-25 pages. I wish I was able to take the actual course with him.”
Thorp has said those who were enrolled in the classes were cheated out of a Carolina education.
The only other thing I’ll say is thank goodness that schools with engineering and hard science departments don’t operate this way. Can you imagine all the buildings and bridges that would be collapsing before our eyes? Not to mention all the things that would get blown up accidentally and our food supply dying out? Yikes.
There’s quite a bit of material in this article, folks. Since I don’t really want to paste the authors’ entire work here, please follow the link (here it is again) and read it in it’s entirety. I know many of you refuse to click onto the N&O, and I’d be the last one to say you should…except, you should. Kane, and now Curliss, have really gone to great lengths to keep this in the public eye and paint the picture that needs painting. They deserve the hits.
Oh, and here’s the PDF document of the emails in case you missed it
Be sure make to your way over to the SFN Forums…lots of great NC State centric talk going on that you won’t find anywhere else.