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By Joe Frierson III

To the N&O: Enough is Enough

By Joe Frierson III Posted August 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I am a very proud graduate, former student-athlete and one-time assistant tennis coach for the University of North Carolina. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling and rewarding collegiate experience than I had at Chapel Hill. The academic environment and many relationships I developed at UNC, undoubtedly, were the foundation for a very rewarding career and life experience today.

Without question, the N&O has done some tremendously valuable work in exposing myriad problems at UNC. What started as a few athletes unable to say “no” to being wined, dined and bedazzled by agents turned in to a litany of embarrassing academic issues.

However, over time, your paper has devolved from reporting the facts of the story to driving a narrative that inflates and perpetuates the story.

In Dan Kane’s recent article on Jan Boxill’s role in the Faculty Executive Committee Report , he states Boxill “watered down the report.” The FEC report, referencing a detailed AFAM review, specifically states as a “clear finding” that Deborah Crowder was involved in problems in the AFAM department. If Jan Boxill really wanted to hide Crowder and her role from the NCAA, why did the final report reference Crowder by name and highlight her role in a detailed investigative report that mentions Crowder’s name over 11 times?

The purpose of the Faculty Executive Committee Report was to report facts and findings. If Crowder would not speak and if nobody interviewed the athletes, how can anyone suggest they know why Crowder did what she did? Was it to help basketball players? Or African American students? Or low-income students? How could anyone feel confident in presenting speculation as fact?

Recently, Luke DeCock described the Martin Report as “whitewash.” Insults to a respected Governor aside, Baker Tilly is a global accounting firm and universally recognized as a leader in academic audits. I can believe that a bunch of hicks on a website would find a conspiracy of epic proportions in Baker Tilly’s findings, but a seasoned journalist? B-T audited 172,000 class sections and nearly 20 years of student data looking for grade inflation, clustering and irregular results, but DeCock considers that inadequate? The Martin Report cannot be a “whitewash” just because B-T didn’t reach the conclusion DeCock wanted.

By my count, there have been 6 investigations at UNC the last 3 years. Every review and investigation concludes the fraud began and ended with 2 people in a small department at UNC. The facts make abundantly clear that it is not systemic and it is not widespread. Do you think the N&O has presented these facts in a balanced way?

I have no doubt that, despite the steady erosion of your industry, your reporting on the mess at UNC has been beneficial to the News and Observer’s relevancy. Without question, Dan “Is His Biggest Fan” Kane enjoyed the national attention his initial work procured. Your paper did legitimate work at the beginning of the UNC debacle (whether I liked it or not). But you have crossed the line. You are no longer reporting the facts. You are perpetuating a self-sustaining narrative. I would expect that from some hillbillies at a rival school. I would expect more from journalists like you.

Enough is enough.

Joe Frierson III
Athens, GA

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