Wednesday, North Carolina released the results of an independent investigation into widespread academic fraud at the university, finding that more than 3,100 students took classes under a "shadow" curriculum.
Former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein led the investigation after the NCAA reopened the academic misconduct probe into the university in June, when new information became available.
Here are some of the most shocking findings from the report (and the supplemental findings), and one note for the future:
1. The 'shadow' curriculum lasted 18 years
For 18 years between 1993 and 2011, Debby Crowder and Dr. Julius Nyang'oro developed the curriculum inside the university's African and Afro-American Studies program. Crowder, a longtime Student Services Manager in the department, held her position for 30 years. Nyang'oro became chair in 1992 and, according to the report, brought a hands-off approach to management, and was willing to delegate substantial authority to Crowder.
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.
The investigation reveals that Crowder and Nyang'oro were "primarily motivated to offer these classes by a desire to help struggling students and student-athletes." Crowder in particular "felt a strong affinity for student-athletes" and readily granted them access to the classes to help them manage their academic and athletic demands.
2. More than 47 percent of the shadow curriculum enrollees were student-athletes
According to the report, Crowder and Nyang'oro's shadow classes were largely filled with student-athletes and "problem" students. In addition to lecture-designated paper classes, the department also developed "bifurcated classes." In these, "some of the enrolled students were expected to attend regular lectures and complete all assignments like any other lecture course, while others were exempted from those standard class requirements and were allowed to complete the class by simply turning in a paper, pursuant to the typical paper class process."
We found that some students were selected for paper-class treatment because they were considered behavior problems in the classroom, while others were selected simply because they were student-athletes On one occasion, for example, a Swahili instructor apparently requested that up to six football players be enrolled in a Swahili 3 paper class because they were under-performing in the Swahili 3 lecture class. Of the 154 student enrollments we have identified in the five bifurcated classes, 88 (57% ) of them were student-athletes.
Overall, approximately 1,871 student-athletes (47.6 percent of the paper class enrollments) were enrolled in the shadow curriculum. Of that total, 1,189 were football and men's basketball players. The report offers a start contrast to the typical Chapel Hill student body: On average, approximately 4 percent of the student body are student-athletes and approximately 0.6 percent are football players.
3. The high level of cooperation
Page 19, Article G of the report details how student-athletes were "steered" toward these classes.
The academic counselors in ASPSA were well aware that these courses existed, that they required relatively little work and that they generally resulted in high grades. For those reasons, some counselors routinely steered their student-athletes into these classes. They would identify those student-athletes who needed extra help to maintain their [NCAA] eligibility, steer those student-athletes toward the paper classes and then work closely with Crowder to register them.
4. Athletic counselors were on edge about losing Crowder
When Crowder announced her retirement in 2008, there was "sobering recognition by football counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA)." The counselors moved quickly in response, urging students to submit summer school papers to Crowder in time to have them graded.
In one email to a football operations coordinator, André Williams, during the second summer session of 2009, Cynthia Reynolds, the Associate Director for ASPSA and Director of Football, wrote that "Ms. Crowder is retiring at the end of July . . . if the guys papers are not in . . . I would expect D's or C's at best. Most need better than that . . . ALL WORK FROM THE AFAM DEPT. MUST BE DONE AND TURNED IN ON THE LAST DAY OF CLASS." As reflected in that email, the football counselors were painfully aware that many of their charges would not get the grades they "need" to remain eligible if someone other than Crowder graded their papers.
The counselors were also "painfully aware" that the whole football program would have to change how it aligned on-field expectations with academic priorities. In a November 2009 meeting with all of the football coaches, counselors presented the following slide:
The worst fake UNC homework
The worst fake UNC homework
5. Moving forward
Needless to say, the scope of this investigation has rocked Chapel Hill. Not only were more than 3,000 students enrolled in unethically easy classes, nearly half were athletes. Most readers probably don't even need a Google search to be reminded of UNC's ruined student-athlete reputation.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said active employees who have been implicated will be held accountable. Nine employees have been fired or disciplined, and honorary status for another has been removed. According to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, the NCAA says the report will be reviewed by its enforcement staff, but it won't comment right now.