Review: UNC academic fraud not mainly for athletes

Jan. 25, 2013 @ 04:13 PM

Despite skepticism that met a former governor's findings last month, athletes weren't the main beneficiaries of academic fraud at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a consultant who looked further into the data said Friday.

An addendum to last month's report of an investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin said there's no evidence student-athletes gained more than others from dozens of courses in the university's Department of African and Afro-American Studies where instructors did not teach, grades were changed and grade reports were faked over more than a decade.

The addition looked at the proportion of athletes in more than 170 problem courses, the grades they received, and other features to look further into whether student-athletes might have benefited, said Raina Rose Tagle, a partner at the Washington-area academic consulting firm Baker Tilley that assisted Martin's probe and produced Friday's report. The report was presented to a panel of the state university system's governors looking into the scandal that led to the resignation of Chancellor Holden Thorp and departure of football coach Butch Davis.

"There was no greater presence of student-athletes in the anomalus courses than in other courses of the department and in other departments" within the university, Tagle told the UNC Board of Governors committee.

Student-athletes made up about 45 percent of the enrollment in the problem courses, all students had an equal opportunity to enroll in those courses, and only about one out of four of the student-athletes who took an African studies course in that time were enrolled in suspect courses, according to the new analysis.

"Our analysis and our review have been exhaustive and there is nothing else that I could even fathom that we could want or need to look at," Tagle said.

Martin's investigation reported that the academic fraud was confined to the school's African studies department and were the result of wrongdoing by the former chairman and a department administrator beginning in 1997.

The probe was launched after the disclosure of the academic transcript of former UNC-Chapel Hill football star and basketball player Julius Peppers. Peppers, who left the university in 2002 to enter the NFL, earned Bs or better in African studies classes but poor grades in many of his other classes. An earlier probe found irregularities in the department dating from 2007.

State Bureau of Investigation agents are continuing their criminal investigation in consultation with a local prosecutor who wants to know whether the university was defrauded for teaching that wasn't delivered.