UNC Leaders Address Pressures To Answer Questions On Past Academic/Athletic Relations

By Rachel Nash Posted March 28, 2014 at 10:14 pm

As UNC leaders have been scrutinized for the past academic/athletic scandal, they have also been criticized for the way they have handled those controversies, either for saying too little, going into defense mode, or for acting in a state of denial, as some have said.

During a Faculty Council Meeting Friday, UNC Professor Joy Renner, who serves as Chair of the Faculty Athletics Committee, spoke candidly about the pressure she and her colleagues have felt in the past three years to provide answers about what led to the scandals and how the University has responded to those internal problems.

“We accept the fact that people [and faculty] do not feel that there is enough information out there. We will continue to develop our interdepartmental networks. Yes, we can all read, listen, and hear everything as well. We acknowledge that. We hear what is out there,” Renner said.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, who is in her ninth month at the helm of Carolina, said she recognizes the various reports swirling around the University.

“I think that is always our goal—to be responsive. On the other hand, we have to be thoughtful. We have to be careful, and we have to get it right. I feel as long as I know we are going for the right thing, I feel pretty pleased with what we are doing,” Folt said.

On Tuesday, a new surge of media attention was focused on the UNC academic fraud scandal. Two new, former Carolina football players said on separate HBO and ESPN programs that they were encouraged to take no-show classes in order to retain their athletic eligibility during their collegiate careers.

Whistle-blower Mary Willingham, a former athletic tutor who has been outspoken about improprieties she said observed while working with student athletes, also appeared in the ESPN documentary.

In response, Joel Curran, Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs, released a statement that the documentaries covered information that had already been reported. He added that the University announced nearly two years ago that there were “irregular classes” taught.

When asked about the documentaries, Folt said her focus was on the present and the future of the University.

“If you are referring to reports in various media about our institution, those don’t really reflect anything that is actually going on at our institution. My focus is really here [at the University],” Folt said.

Renner said she does pay attention to the media reports, but said those do not impact the work she is doing presently to reform the University’s ties between academic and athletics.

“I wouldn’t say it is influencing our plans for changes, practices, and procedures. Obviously, it does affect the public at large. Anytime you view one show or one piece, you are not getting the whole story. You are getting a partial story,” she said.

Renner called the time just after the NCAA announced its intention to investigate the UNC football in 2010 “ground zero” as faculty tried to piece together what went awry. Since then, she said the focus has shifted to implementing policy change, keeping in mind the developments that are happening in college athletics across the country.

Folt said she felt pleased with the reforms and inquiries that have already happened and are currently underway.

“I feel very strongly that we are moving forward in a lot of areas. We have investigations going, we are analyzing data, and we are continuing to put forward reforms. To me, it is part of a larger set of initiatives that are progressing,” she said.

“Outside Experts’” Analysis Of Willingham’s Data To Be Released In A Couple Of Weeks

UNC Provost Jim Dean said the analysis of the three “outside experts” who were commissioned to independently review Willingham’s data, which found that a majority of the student-athletes she had studied had sub-par reading skills, will be ready in about two or three weeks.

Dean has not identified the names of the experts.

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