A public policy professor at UNC-Chapel Hill said the university failed to address an important issue in a report to its accrediting body.
Professor Hodding Carter III said the administration should be better prepared to respond to future whistleblowers similar to Mary Willingham, a former academic adviser who publicly criticized literacy levels of UNC athletes amid investigations into academic fraud at the school.
“From here on our first instinct should not be to shoot the messenger, it should be to come to grips with what was said,” Carter said. “A great university shot itself repeatedly… in the foot, in the head, in its moral center, over and over.”
The university sent a report this month to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) asking the group to find the school in compliance with 18 accrediting standards in question.
The 220-page document lists and describes actions taken and reforms put in place in recent years to ensure academic fraud doesn’t recur at the school.
Carter said he agrees that university officials have installed steps to move forward from an academic scandal that has riddled the university since 2011.
But, Carter said, the report does not illustrate how the university plans to better respond to crises in the future, crises he said are inevitable.
“Those problems won’t arise again,” Carter said. “What will arise again are things, because this is a human institution, after all, which will require candor.”
SACS has been watching the university closely since 2011, when claims of academic improprieties first surfaced. The university was in good standing with its accrediting body by the summer of 2014.
Kenneth Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor who was hired by the university to investigate the irregularities, documented new improprieties in his report in October 2014. His report revealed the scandal lasted longer, affected more students, and implicated additional faculty members than previously known.
According to SACS officials, the new information didn’t agree with what the university reported to them in 2013.
In its response this month, the university said new information was made available by Deborah Crowder and Julius Nyang’oro, two former employees who the university said were at the center of the wrongdoing. Prior to Wainstein’s investigation they were unavailable for interviews.
The university insists in the report that there has been no wrongdoing since 2011, regardless of the new information brought to light by Wainstein.
The report states, “While Carolina continues to take these issues very seriously and without offering excuses, it is also critical to make it clear that the Wainstein investigation, like prior investigations, found no evidence of any academic improprieties occurring since the summer of 2011, and no evidence that these academic improprieties extended beyond courses in one department in the College of Arts and Sciences.”
“If nothing is done except to prove we’ve learned how to master PR, then the university is going to be doomed as a place of integrity that it’s understood to be,” Carter said.
“One of the things you’ve got to decide is what price you’re willing to pay for the essence of the integrity of a place,” Carter said.
Read UNC’s full report to SACS here.