University trustees on Thursday received two independent reviews commissioned following academic irregularities discovered in the African and Afro-American studies department.
Chancellor Holden Thorp and the trustees retained Baker Tilly, a national management consulting firm specializing in academic operations procedures and controls, to assess the numerous new policies, procedures and controls the University implemented to strengthen academics in African and Afro-American studies, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Summer School.
In August, Thorp also asked former N.C. Gov. James Martin to explore, with no restrictions, any issues raised by the University’s review of courses offered in African and Afro-American studies. Martin was assisted by Baker Tilly. The University cooperated fully.
Baker Tilly Validates New Policies and Procedures
Raina Rose Tagle, a partner and National Practice Leader in Baker Tilly’s Higher Education Practice, told the trustees that the firm reviewed policy and procedure changes drawn from more than 70 recommendations from four previous University reviews. Baker Tilly found no gaps in the implementation of the new policies and procedures.
Review Finds Anomalies Limited to African and Afro-American Studies
Martin presented the trustees with the results of his review of course data for any evidence of anomalies in other academic subjects or departments beyond the African and Afro-American studies department, when anomalies existed, and what factors contributed to those issues, as well as who was responsible.
Martin said that the problems uncovered were academic in nature rather than athletic. His key findings, based on reviewing courses taken by all UNC undergraduates between 1994 and 2012, included:
- The anomalous courses discovered in African and Afro-American studies extended as far back as fall 1997.
- The percentage of student-athletes enrolled in the anomalous course sections was consistent with the percentage of student-athletes enrolled in all courses offered by the department.
- No academic misconduct or anomalies were found outside of African and Afro-American studies in other academic departments or units.
- The same two people previously implicated were responsible: Professor Julius Nyang’oro, who resigned as the department’s first chair and was forced to retire last July, and former department administrator Deborah Crowder, who retired in 2009.
The Martin report review team spent about four months examining 18 years (1994 to 2012; 68 academic terms) worth of academic data about all undergraduate classes at the University. The team reviewed 172,580 course sections and more than 4.6 million data elements. They interviewed more than 80 faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders and analyzed information previously reported through the internal reviews.
Thorp calls on campus community to embrace findings, move forward
For a University community that has long taken pride in doing things the right way, the report findings suggest that “we took that for granted,” Chancellor Holden Thorp told the Board of Trustees.
“Today, we can’t run away from what we’ve learned,” he said. “We made some mistakes in the past. We were complacent. We didn’t ask the hard questions we should have asked. And we didn’t live up to our reputation. … We have to acknowledge all of these things. And we have to get better. We can’t be the world-class university that we are and the economic driver for the state if there are any questions about our integrity.”
Thorp said that he was not aware of another university opening itself up to an academic review of this scope. “We are embracing these findings, and we are moving forward as a much stronger university. I hope that ultimately we will be judged not only by what happened but by what we’re doing about it.”
Review affirms findings from the Hartlyn-Andrews report
The Martin report expanded upon the results of the internal review of classes taught in African and Afro-American studies. That review, led by College of Arts and Sciences Senior Associate Deans Jonathan Hartlyn and William Andrews, was launched in fall 2011 when questions were raised about some irregularly taught courses dating back to 2007.
The review found 54 questionable classes among 616 offered between 2007 and 2011 and implicated Nyang’oro and Crowder. It also concluded that the irregularities could have existed before 2007.
This afternoon, Martin and Rose Tagle met with the UNC Board of Governors Academic Review Panel, which has been charged with assessing the University’s investigative work and its response to the academic irregularities. UNC President Tom Ross also issued a statement about the two reports.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the University’s accreditor, will appoint a committee to review the University’s response. The University will send SACS both reports presented to the trustees.
Thorp has said it was not surprising that SACS would want to take a closer look at the University’s response to an academic issue. The University looks forward to demonstrating for SACS the reforms now in place to ensure that the academic irregularities never occur again, he said.
More information about the Board of Trustees meeting and the two reviews can be found on the University’s Academic Review website.
Published December 20, 2012. Updated July 3, 2013.