Of course the academic scandal at the University of North Carolina – in which, in the tradition of Auburn’s Thomas Petee, the corrupt chair of an entire department designed a vast system of totally bogus, basically non-existent courses for athletes – will damage that school very badly for a very long time.

But with the final independent report on the matter – released today – you see the inner workings here, the way the hilarious Faculty Athletic Committee (its chair is a woman who describes herself as having been appointed to lead the committee even though she had “No previous contact with athletics other than occasional attendance at events … I possessed a limited understanding of the breadth of athletics, both its contributions to higher education and its effects on higher education”) said hey forget your concerns; they’re professors, and professors can do whatever the hell they want with their courses.

And that is possibly the most damaging thing of all for UNC — as an academic institution, that is, rather than the jockshop it’s on its way to becoming. Because now all UNC faculty will be subject to serious oversight. The independence (and of course that independence is never absolute in the way the FAC suggested – or it shouldn’t be) the FAC cynically invoked to distract attention from the rot in a corrupt department can no longer be taken for granted among that school’s faculty.

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Update: The Charlotte Observer is correct that this report fails to answer some important questions.

Those findings leave significant unanswered questions about academic fraud. What was the impetus for the no-show classes if there was no personal gain? How did the no-show courses grow to an astounding 216 over the last 15 years, and how and why were they sustained?

On the second question: I’m assuming the chair just executed ye olde Independent Study maneuver, assigning himself twenty or so a semester… Maybe putting the names of other faculty on yet more… I mean, it was all pretend, and he was chair, so he could do pretty much anything he wanted… Including hiring a sports agent professionally involved with a couple of UNC players to teach a course! Whatever genius put together the inept, indifferent Faculty Athletic Committee must have been proud of her work.

On the first question: But there was personal gain for the department chair. In so many ways. Here’s the most obvious:

Last summer, UNC-Chapel Hill professor Julius Nyang’oro received $12,000 to teach AFAM 280 – Blacks in North Carolina. The 19 students enrolled in the course were to learn about the state’s legacy of slavery and racism, and how blacks fought to overcome it.

It is a course that typically involved classroom lectures, research papers and exams, according to syllabi from other UNC-CH professors who taught it. Nyang’oro, the department’s chairman, was expected to teach it that way as well, university officials said.

But Nyang’oro did not hold classes or require any exams. His one-page syllabus said that because of the “compact nature” of the summer schedule, the students would spend that time largely on their own to find one or two black leaders in North Carolina to be the subject of a research paper due at the end of the session.

Nyang’oro taught multiple summer courses, and got more money for being a ‘summer administrator,’ and in all of this he seems to have done nothing at all. Raking it in for doing nothing at all is extreme personal gain.

His secretary, also in on the scheme, continued to get a low salary; but UD‘s going to speculate a bit here about her motives. First, there’s the possibility that Nyang’oro or someone else gave her money under the table, or found a way to give her other benefits (free tickets to games, social access to players). It’s possible that Nyang’oro – a charismatic man by all accounts – charmed her into it. It’s also simply possible that as a loyal, long-serving person (the problem goes back to 1997, if not before), she saw this completely non-controversially as the way things worked. For her, “personal gain” presumably meant keeping her job, since administering bogus courses for athletes was her job.

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UPDATE: The secretary:

Crowder had close ties to the basketball team. She has been in a longtime relationship with a former basketball player, and Martin’s investigation found that in 2008, she had received $100,000 and some Hummel figurines from the estate of the father of a close friend who was the former academic adviser to basketball players until shortly before her death in 2004.

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One Response to “‘”When these concerns were raised, the Faculty Athletic Committee stated that it was incumbent upon each instructor of record to determine how to teach his/her own course and that is was therefore unnecessary for ASPSA personnel to question the instructional methods used,” the report stated.’”

  1. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    What really steams me is that, at a time when the value of the humanities in general is being questioned, and classes that interrogate race, gender, and/or class are under particular scrutiny, Nyang’oro made what sounds like a potentially solid Afro-Am class into exactly the sort of feel-good fluff (“let’s research leaders without interrogating what we mean by leadership”) that too many people think such courses inherently are (and then, apparently, his students didn’t even do that work). Ugh.

    One thought that occurred to me: we’ve recently moved to an electronic faculty report system, which automatically lists the courses we’ve taught that year at the top. There’s also a “display instructor schedule” function in our registration software (which I assume talks to the reporting software somehow, and can also be accessed on its own). Either would make it much harder than it might have been under previous systems for anyone, including a chair, to secretly teach classes under another faculty member’s name. That’s probably a good thing, but hardly a solution to the (much, much) larger problem.

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