A Weak Response To Fraud at UNC
T he latest scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill - as if it needed another one - stinks to high heaven. A stronger reaction will be needed if the university is to dispel at least some of the lingering smell.
The current embarrassment is related to the earlier one that ultimately cost Tar Heel football coach Butch Davis his job. But this one appears to have gone deeper and broader - and more firings would definitely seem to be in order.
The thing that touched off the Davis mess, it will be recalled, was the revelation that football player Michael McAdoo had allegedly received inappropriate help from a tutor - and that a paper he had received credit for in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies was later found to contain plagiarized passages.
Now, new evidence uncovered by The News & Observer - and commented on in an N&O editorial reprinted Wednesday in The Pilot - makes it all too painfully clear that the McAdoo episode was just the tip of a shamefully ugly iceberg.
Evidence of Serious Abuses
Professor Julius Nyang'oro resigned last year as the longtime chairman of the department. But at least during the last few years of his tenure, the evidence suggests that he kept such a loose hand on the controls that a great many disgraceful abuses were committed, sadly devaluing the kind of scholarship offered in that department - and indirectly causing great damage to the university itself.
Specifically, internal investigators found that as many as 54 summer classes taught between 2007 and 2011, with a total enrollment of 686, were shot through with fraud. Though grades were handed out, there is no evidence that much actual teaching to speak of was actually going on or that any papers had indeed been turned in or graded. Some of the grades that were handed out were sometimes later altered in unauthorized ways, and instructors' signatures apparently forged.
The internal report blamed Nyang'oro and a former department administrator named Deborah Crowder. She has refused to talk with investigators.
As for the connection to the earlier scandal: University football players were found to represent 246 (36 percent) of the 686 enrollments within the department's summer classes during the period in question.
Should Have Been Fired
Nyang'oro pulled down an annual salary of more than $150,000 and no doubt stands to rake in a nice pension. Considering the grave harm done, critics seem justified in arguing that the university should have fired him instead of simply letting him quietly retire.
And Chancellor Holden Thorp, who used to be Nyang'oro's direct supervisor and friend in an earlier post, should definitely have displayed more outrage than he did upon learning about these revelations and being asked about them. "Surprised and shocked and sad" doesn't cut it.
If anything remotely approaching such wrongdoing had been exposed in, say, Sandhills Community College or Pinecrest High School, heads would surely roll. How much more seriously should it be regarded at the state's revered flagship institution of higher learning?
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