University Of North Carolina Academic Fraud: Over 3,100 Students Implicated, Fake Classes Found

An eight-month probe has implicated more than 3,100 students. The report found that the “shadow curriculum” that existed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1993 to 2011 offered a grade-point boost from phony coursework, including a disproportionately high percentage of student-athletes.

The Washington Post says that the investigation was completed by attorney and former Department of Justice official Kenneth Wainstein. The Wainstein report looked closely at the ties between the student atheletes and the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. The report found that the department essentially existed to pad students’ grades when they put little to no effort into the class, sometimes not even attending class at all.

The report notes that the investigation looked into Deborah Crowder, a secretary in the African and Afro-American Studies department. Crowder had begun the “shadow curriculum” about a year after Julius Nyang’oro became head of the department and practiced indifferent oversight, according to The Washington Post.

“She designed and offered what are called ‘paper classes.’ Hundreds of the courses were independent-study. Yet when the university tightened standards on the amount of independent study a student could undertake, Crowder altered her program, creating courses she identified as lecture courses, but which mirrored independent study in that lectures never happened. The Wainstein report found 188 such courses between 1999 and 2011, in which 47.4 percent of the enrollments were student-athletes, who generally comprise 4 percent of the student population. Once Crowder retired in 2009, Nyang’oro sustained the practices for two more years until his retirement in 2011, albeit less voluminously.”

However, it wasn’t just the African and Afro-American Studies Department acting alone. It appears that the athletics department worked closely with Crowder, going so far as to send lists of players to be enrolled in ‘paper classes’ each term, and in some cases apparently even indicated for Crowder the grade or grade range the player would need to earn in the class to maintain eligibility.

The Charlotte Observer reports that as a result of the investigation, nine employees were terminated or put on administrative leave. The university declined to identify the nine employees being terminated or under disciplinary review, citing personnel laws.

Though Wainstein didn’t put an exact label on what was happening at UNC, he did use some pretty harsh words when describing what he found. He described the actions of UNC officials as the focus of the investigation. He called the “paper classes” Crowder initiated “watered down” and “corrupted” versions of legitimate forms of teaching. Crowder, an administrator, not a professor, assigned high grades to student papers without reading them in full, he said.

Chancellor Folt said Wainstein’s findings definitely show that the fraud was both an academic and athletic problem.

“The bad actions of a very few and inaction of many more failed our students, faculty and staff and undermined our institution. [Which is an] inexcusable betrayal of our values.”

Though the university is trying to make things right now, during the time of the scandal it was common knowledge within the support program that the classes didn’t meet, were easy and offered high grades, the report says. They became such a crutch that when Crowder retired in 2009, football team counselors were desperate for the classes to continue, warning coaches that the team’s overall GPA would plummet without them, which it did.

What do you think should happen now that many of the players and officials have left the school? Should the students who graduated with these “shadow classes” on their record face any sort of repercussions, or should they be left alone since the classes were sanctioned on a higher level?