Independent counsel to conduct inquiry of information about academic irregularities

University of North Carolina President Tom Ross and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt have retained an outside attorney to conduct an independent inquiry of academic irregularities at UNC-Chapel Hill, based on new information that may become available.

The University has remained in contact with Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall throughout his investigation of potential criminal activity connected to course irregularities in UNC-Chapel Hill’s former Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Woodall has indicated that he will cooperate with the inquiry and that he can now share with the independent counsel as much information acquired by his office during the criminal investigation as determined to be appropriate. Woodall relied on the SBI to help determine whether criminal activity had occurred.

Ross and Folt, on behalf of the University, jointly decided to retain Kenneth L. Wainstein, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Justice Department, as an independent counsel to conduct the inquiry. Wainstein, a partner with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in Washington, D.C., has served as general counsel and chief of staff to the FBI, and was twice nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for leadership positions in the Justice Department. In 2004, he was appointed the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., where he oversaw the investigation and prosecution of high-profile white-collar cases. In 2006, he was confirmed as the first Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and in 2008, he was named Homeland Security Advisor by President Bush.

Based on information that the district attorney is able to offer, Wainstein will take any further steps necessary to address any questions left unanswered during previous reviews commissioned by the University. While there is no set timetable for completing the inquiry, the University will cooperate fully with Wainstein and ensure he has the full access he needs to complete his work. He will produce a written report, which will be made public.

“We — the UNC Board of Governors, UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, Chancellor Folt and I — have said all along that we would re-evaluate next steps once the SBI had completed its investigation,” Ross said. “Thanks to the cooperation of District Attorney Woodall, the University may now have access to additional information needed to address any remaining questions and bring this matter to closure. Chancellor Folt and I felt strongly that this would best be handled by bringing in the outside, independent perspective of an experienced professional like Ken Wainstein.”

Said Folt, “We have directed Mr. Wainstein to ask the tough questions, follow the facts wherever they lead, and get the job done. I have quickly grown to admire the extent to which the Carolina community has encouraged me to look within the University, to identify challenges, and to take strong actions to address them. I believe these efforts will accelerate the University’s capacity to achieve the meaningful academic and athletic reform that our entire community expects.”

Wainstein said, “I look forward to working closely with the University community to develop a full understanding of the facts and to provide an independent and comprehensive assessment of those facts for the University and the public.”

 Message to the Carolina Community

Chancellor Folt today sent the following message about the inquiry to the Carolina community.

Dear Friends:

This afternoon, UNC President Tom Ross and I are announcing an important step in addressing any questions left unanswered from previous reviews of course irregularities in our former department of African and Afro-American studies (now African, African-American and Diaspora Studies). Details will be posted at unc.edu.

We are retaining an outside attorney to conduct an independent inquiry based on information newly made available to us. The independent counselor will have the freedom to ask the tough questions, follow the facts wherever they lead, and get the job done.

I understand that this has been a troubling and difficult chapter in Carolina’s history, and I admire the extent to which the Carolina community has encouraged me from the start to look inward, to identify challenges and to take strong actions to address them. Thanks to all of you who have worked tirelessly toward understanding and resolution.

Sincerely,

Carol L. Folt

Chancellor

Published February 21, 2014.