Most Eye-Catching Paragraphs In UNC’s Wainstein Academic Fraud Report

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After years of suspicion and private investigation, this report, led by former U.S. Justice Department Official Kenneth Wainstein, was released Wednesday, detailing the pervasive academic fraud that’s plagued the University of North Carolina’s athletic program for the last 20-plus years. 

In a nut shell, two UNC administrators, Dept. of African and Afro-American Studies administrator Deborah Crowder and former chairman Julius Nyang’oro, were behind the scheme that included “paper classes,” in which students received high grades with no class attendance and sub-par work, to say the least. The fraud has involved hundreds of athletes spanning over two decades and the entire UNC athletic program could face serious sanctions from the NCAA.

I looked over the 136 page report. Here are the most eye-popping paragraphs. 


“Paper Classes”

Specifically, she designed and offered what are called “paper classes.” These were classes
that were taught on an independent study basis for students and student-athletes whom Crowder
selected. Like traditional independent studies at Chapel Hill or any other campus, these classes
entailed no class attendance and required only the submission of a single research paper. Unlike
traditional independent studies, however, there was no faculty member involved in managing the
course and overseeing the student’s research and writing process. In fact, the students never had a
single interaction with a faculty member; their only interaction was with Crowder, the Student
Services Manager who was not a member of the University faculty.

No Actual Instruction

Crowder provided the students with no actual instruction, but she managed the whole
course from beginning to end. She registered the selected students for the classes; she assigned
them their paper topics; she received their completed papers at the end of the semester; she graded
the papers; and she recorded the students’ final class grades on the grade rolls. When Crowder
graded the papers, she did so generously – typically with As or high Bs – and largely without regard
to the quality of the papers. The result was that thousands of Chapel Hill students received high
grades, a large number of whom did not earn those high grades with high quality work.

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Targeting Football and Basketball

These paper classes were taken by students of all types, but were especially popular among
student-athletes, particularly those who played the “revenue” sports of football and men’s
basketball. Many of these student-athletes were referred to these classes by academic counselors in
the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (“ASPSA”) who were always under pressure to
maintain student-athlete eligibility and saw these classes – and their artificially high grades – as key to
helping academically-challenged student-athletes remain eligible and on the playing field.

Fake Lectures

Due to curricular changes and limits on the number of independent studies per student,
Crowder modified her approach in the late 1990s and started offering these paper classes under the
guise of traditional lecture classes. Despite their lecture designation on the schedule, these classes
continued to operate in the same fashion.

UNC’s Ignorance

Despite the fact that these classes involved thousands of students and coordination between
Crowder and numerous University employees, the Chapel Hill administration never scrutinized
AFAM’s operations or the academic integrity of their course offerings. It was only when media
reports raised questions about AFAM classes in 2011 that administration officials took a hard look
at the AFAM Department. They were shocked with what they found.

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That’s A Lot Of Fraud

Over the 18 years these classes existed, Crowder and Nyang’oro were
responsible for offering 188 different lecture classes as well as hundreds of
individual independent studies in the “paper class” format – with no class
attendance or faculty involvement, and with Crowder managing the class and
liberally grading the papers. Through this scheme, over 3,100 students
received one or more semesters of deficient instruction and were awarded
high grades that often had little relationship to the quality of their work.

“Football Counselors” Wanted To Keep The Scheme Going

Several of the ASPSA football counselors grew dependent on the paper
classes and were very concerned when Crowder announced her upcoming
retirement. They immediately took steps to prepare for the end of the paper
classes. They instructed players to submit their papers before Crowder’s
departure to receive the benefit of her liberal grading; they warned the
football coaches that with Crowder’s retirement they no longer had access to
classes “that met degree requirements in which [the football players] didn’t
go to class…didn’t take notes [or] have to stay awake…didn’t have to meet
with professors [and] didn’t have to pay attention or necessarily engage with
the material;” and they undertook an effort to persuade Nyang’oro to
continue the paper classes. They succeeded in getting Nyang’oro to offer a
few classes, but not before the football team’s GPA fell to its lowest point in
ten years.

Crowder Is a Fanatic

Crowder was also passionate about Carolina athletics. Her affinity for Chapel Hill’s teams –
and particularly the men’s basketball team – was well known. She kept the men’s basketball
calendars on her office walls; her office was a regular gathering place for the players; and according
to several faculty members, she cared so much about the fortunes of the basketball team that she
was occasionally unable to come to work for a day or two after the Tar Heels lost a basketball game.

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Swahili = English 

One particularly popular class was the third level of Swahili, which was offered in this
irregular format specifically so that students – and particularly student-athletes – who struggled in
lower levels of Swahili could satisfy their foreign language requirement by writing a paper about
Swahili culture in English rather completing a regular Swahili 3 paper class in Swahili. Eighteen
students were enrolled in these Swahili 3 paper classes, including 12 student-athletes.

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When The Frats Found Out

Others were simply attracted to the ease with which one could satisfy the paper requirement and
obtain a high grade for very little work. Members of certain fraternities, for example, started to sign
up for these paper classes, causing Crowder to bemoan to one assistant dean in 2005 that word
about them had “gotten into the frat circuit.”

The Dean’s Direction Nearly 10 Years Ago

The only other questions about the AFAM classes were raised by Senior Associate Dean for
Undergraduate Education Roberta “Bobbi” Owen. In 2005 or 2006, Dean Owen had lunch with
Nyang’oro and complained to him about the extremely high number of independent studies he was
handling (sometimes more than 300 per academic year). She directed him to reduce that number
and to “get [Crowder] under control,” suggesting that Crowder was somehow behind the high
numbers of independent studies in the AFAM Department. When Nyang’oro returned from lunch
that day, he told Crowder that Owen was watching the independent studies enrollments and
instructed her to scale them back. Crowder did as instructed, and the number of independent
studies enrollments immediately went down. Owen noticed the decline in enrollments, and in
November 2006 she sent Nyang’oro an email entitled “Ind Studies,” noting that “it has gotten
quieter from your side of campus,” and conveying her thanks.19

This Slide (with text)

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The Rate Of These Fraudulent Classes In Graph Form

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Did UNC Know and Approve?

Perceived Affirmation of the Paper Classes by the Administration: Both Crowder and
Nyang’oro indicated their belief that the Chapel Hill administration wanted them to provide this
assistance to the student-athletes. When we asked about the basis for this belief, both cited the
administration’s inaction throughout the years as evidence of its acquiescence in the classes. In
addition, Nyang’oro cited several comments he received over the years from administrators and
faculty suggesting an awareness and approval of the AFAM Department’s efforts on behalf of
student-athletes.

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“I didn’t write any papers. I didn’t write any papers, but I know that
the tutors did help guys write papers – as far as help them through
the grammar, the structure, paragraphs, so on and so forth. But, for
some of the premier players, we didn’t write our papers. It was very
simple. When it was time to turn in our papers for our “paper classes,” we would get a call from our tutors, we would all pack up in
one big car, or pack up in two cars, and ride over to the tutor’s house,
pick up our papers and go about our business.

Spike of Fraud Under Roy Williams

Chapel Hill had four different head men’s basketball coaches during the period in which the
AFAM paper courses were offered. During the Dean Smith era (1961-1997), there were 54
basketball player enrollments in AFAM independent studies.137 In the three years of Coach Bill
Guthridge’s tenure (1997-2000), there were 17 basketball enrollments in paper classes. There were
42 enrollments in paper classes under Coach Matt Doherty (2000-2003) and 167 under Coach Roy
Williams (2003-present).


 

The rest of the report goes into greater detail as to how the academic fraud took place, who they interviewed and how they uncovered the information and what the University did during their private investigation to find the truth for themselves. 

It is yet to be discovered how the NCAA will react to this official report. 

Josh Helmuth is the editor of CraveOnline Sports.

Photo Credit: Getty