When schools delve into investigative matters, probing into issues such as improper benefits for student-athletes or questionable recruiting measures, usually that is where the investigation stays: Within the realm of collegiate athletics.
However, according to Robbi Pickeral of ESPN, a three-month long investigation into academic fraud at the University of North Carolina has unearthed a trend on campus that is far worse, because it has turned into something far more wide-ranging.
Student-athletes had been seen as receiving improper grading (read: easier) from classes within the school’s African and Afro-American Studies Department. Former North Carolina governor Jim Martin and the consulting firm Baker-Tilly were brought on by the school’s board of trustees to oversee the investigation of the grading improprieties.
He and the firm compiled almost two decades worth of enrollment data, looking at more than 172,000 course sections involving almost 120,000 undergraduates and almost 13,000 instructors. What they found was 216 classes with proven or potential problems, including 454 unauthorized grade changes.
Basically, it was not only student-athletes, but rather students at large who were benefiting from such anomalies as unauthorized grade changes, forged faculty signatures on grade rolls, and limited or no class time.
“This was not an athletic scandal,” Martin told UNC’s Board of Trustees. “It was an academic scandal, which is worse.”
The report makes it clear that athletes were not favored in the cheating process, interestingly enough.
“In general, grade changes do not appear to be isolated or reserved for student-athletes. … I believe personally that the big money from television contracts does distort values of collegiate sports programs; but we found no evidence that it was a factor in these anomalous courses,” Martin wrote in the report. “Despite what one might imagine, there is no evidence the Counselors, or the students, or the coaches had anything to do with perpetrating this abuse of the AFRI/AFAM curriculum, or any other.”
In May, UNC took the onus upon themselves, announcing irregularities arising from within the two school departments in question between the years of 2007 and 2011.
Then, in August, a partial transcript of former football and basketball star Julius Peppers (now with the Chicago Bears of the NFL) was released, and his low grades forced those involved to look far further back than 2007. Thus, the two decades researched by Martin and Baker-Tilly.
Martin’s findings were not announced until Thursday, and it is currently unclear how the school board will respond.
What do you think should be the repercussions of UNC’s actions? Sound off below!
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