Thorp details wide-ranging efforts to address course irregularities, academic-athletic balance

UNC-Chapel Hill is bringing in a former governor, a national management consulting firm and the president of a prestigious national higher education association to help address different aspects of issues related to an internal investigation that found course irregularities in the African and Afro-American studies department.

Chancellor Holden Thorp made those announcements today in an email message highlighting ongoing progress with reforms in academics and athletics to faculty and staff as the campus gears up for fall semester.

Read Thorp’s full message.

“Our focus every day remains on fixing the problems and ensuring they never happen again,” Thorp said.

The University is implementing all of the recommendations in four previous campus reviews:

In addition, Carolina is cooperating fully with the work of a UNC Board of Governors panel convened by UNC President Tom Ross that is assessing the campus investigation and response to determine if they are reasonable and adequate to protect the University’s academic integrity and help prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

In new developments, Thorp announced that former N.C. Gov. James G. Martin will lead an independent review of additional academic irregularities that may have occurred before 2007. (The original four-year departmental course review covered 2007 to 2011.) Martin, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry, is a former Davidson College faculty member who served on faculty athletics and admissions committees. The former member of Congress also serves on the Board of Directors of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy and as chairman and director of the Institute for Defense and Business based in Chapel Hill.

Martin will be assisted by Virchow, Krause & Company, LLP, a national management consulting firm with extensive experience in academic performance procedures and controls. The conclusions will be provided to the UNC Board of Governors panel, which convened in July.

“Members of the Board of Trustees, President Ross and I all believe that this is an important step in rebuilding the confidence that you deserve to have in our academic integrity,” Thorp said. “This review will begin immediately.”

In addition, Virchow, Krause & Company will review new academic performance policies, procedures and controls the University already has put in place in the African and Afro-American studies department, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Summer School “to ensure they represent best practices and, if not, to make specific recommendations for improvement,” the chancellor said. “We are determined to make sure that our internal controls are such that irregularities of the past will not recur.”

Thorp also appointed Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities (AAU), to help Carolina examine the future relationship between academics and athletics on campus. Bringing in outside experts to provide an independent, comprehensive analysis of that relationship was a key recommendation in the Faculty Executive Committee report. UNC-Chapel Hill is a member of the AAU, an association of 61 top public and private research universities. Rawlings was president of the University of Iowa and Cornell University, holds degrees in classics including a Ph.D., and was a star men’s basketball player and baseball pitcher in college.

The University will launch this effort after Martin and Virchow, Krause & Company complete their independent review and the Board of Governors panel finishes its work. “Our goal is to engage the entire campus community in a meaningful discussion and analysis of the role of athletics in the life of the University,” Thorp said.

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Published August 16, 2012.