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UNC launches new review of past academic problems
Question of the Day
North Carolina has hired an outside attorney to conduct yet another independent review of irregularities in an academic department featuring classes with significant athlete enrollments.
The school said Friday that Kenneth L. Wainstein - a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Justice Department - would look into any additional information that might become available from a criminal probe into fraud in the formerly named Department of African and Afro-American Studies dating back to the late 1990s.
The probe led by Orange County district attorney Jim Woodall has led to the indictment of the former department chairman for receiving $12,000 to teach a lecture course filled with football players that he instead treated as an independent study requiring only a paper in summer 2011.
Wainstein led last year’s outside review of the NCAA’s botched handling of the Miami investigation connected to disgraced booster Nevin Shapiro. The former U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C., Wainstein was also named Homeland Security Advisor by President George W. Bush in 2008.
A previous inquiry at UNC conducted by former Gov. Jim Martin in 2012 found problems in more than 200 courses dating back to at least 1997, with irregularities ranging from lecture classes that didn’t meet to possibly forged signatures on grade rolls.
That report, as well as a previous university review, directed blame at former chairman Julius Nyang’oro - who was indicted in December - and retired administrator Deborah Crowder. Woodall said Friday the criminal probe is complete but it’s unclear whether there will be additional charges.
In its news release, the school said it had remained in contact with Woodall, who will share information collected by the State Bureau of Investigation during the criminal probe. The school said Wainstein will then “take any further steps necessary to address any questions left unanswered” in previous reviews about how irregularities took place.
“We were trying to see where there were crimes committed,” Woodall said. “And we didn’t get into all that stuff, although it was touched on and we saw areas where if I was doing an academic investigation, I certainly have gone in that direction.
“And that’s what the university needs to do. They need somebody who will investigate those avenues that just weren’t in our wheelhouse.”
There is no timetable for Wainstein to complete his review and produce his public report. The school said it will cooperate fully, with first-year chancellor Carol Folt saying in a statement that Wainstein has been directed “to ask the tough questions, follow the facts wherever they lead and get the job done.”
Wainstein didn’t immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Friday. In a statement from the school, Wainstein said he would work closely with the school “to develop a full understanding of the facts and to provide an independent and comprehensive assessment.”
Wainstein works in the Washington-based office for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. He focuses his practice on corporate internal investigations as well as criminal and civil enforcement proceedings, according to the firm’s website.
The discovery of irregularities were an offshoot of an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct within the football program. The academic violations in the NCAA case, which began in summer 2010, centered on a tutor providing too much help on papers and led to sanctions in March 2012.
In all, there have been seven internal and external reviews or investigations since 2011 resulting in more than 70 recommendations to improve policies and procedures. The school has implemented numerous reforms, even having officials spot check classes to ensure they’re actually meeting.
UNC system president Tom Ross said having access to new information from the criminal investigation will “address any remaining questions and bring this matter to closure.”
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