Willingham Sues UNC, Asks For Reinstatement
Originally posted 11:10 a.m., July 1, 2014
Former UNC academic adviser Mary Willingham says she has filed a civil lawsuit against the University and asked the university system’s governing board to reinstate her.
Willingham is known as the whistle blower who told CNN in January that UNC admitted athletes who were not academically eligible, and that, in turn, the University is unjustly using athletes for financial gains. She says now that the NCAA has decided to return to campus, she doesn’t want it to hand out further punishment, but instead to use the opportunity to “reform the entire system.”
Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs at UNC, Joel Curran said, “The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is aware of the lawsuit filed by former employee Mary Willingham. We respect the right of any current or former employee to speak out on important University and national issues. We believe the facts will demonstrate that Ms. Willingham was treated fairly and appropriately while she was employed at Carolina.”
Willingham told WRAL’s Julia Sims that she has asked to be reinstated by the Board of Governors. In early May, she shared on her website that she had resigned from UNC. She first said she made the decision to leave on April 21 after an hour-long meeting with Chancellor Carol Folt. She said the conversation made her realize there was no more she could do at UNC and that she wanted to continue her fight to correct problems with intercollegiate athletics elsewhere.
Now Willingham says she believes “the NCAA will need some serious help from our historians at UNC (since so many years have passed).”
The NCAA told the University Monday that it has reopened its 2011 investigation that led to punishments handed out to the UNC football team. The team was put on probation until 2015, stripped of 15 scholarships over a three-year period, and ineligible for postseason play for one season.
The intercollegiate association says it reopened the investigation because people who were previously unwilling to speak with them may now be available.
One of those people is former UNC basketball standout Rashad McCants. He told ESPN’s Outside the Lines in early June that tutors wrote papers for him, he remained eligible only because of phony “paper classes”, and that his coaches, including Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on.
Former assistant attorney general for national security and partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Kenneth Wainstein was hired by the University in January to conduct an external review of any and all academic irregularities. In an update of his investigation given to the Board of Governors on June 20, Wainstein said McCants previously declined to be interview. He said, since the ESPN interviews, another request for an interview has been sent to McCants in hopes that he’s now willing to speak.
Wainstein has also been able to speak with Julius Nyang’oro, the former chair of the African and Afro-American Studies department and his department administrator, Deborah Crowder in his review. Those individuals were quiet during the NCAA’s initial investigation and all other inquiries until Wainstein arrived on campus.
Willingham told WCHL that she and UNC history professor Jay Smith are filing their manuscript with their publisher Tuesday morning before she travels to Washington, D.C. There she says she plans to lobby for athletic reform with meetings scheduled all day Wednesday. She says she doesn’t have any hearings scheduled in D.C. at this time.
The book Smith and Willingham are collaborating on is about the history of the academic scandal at UNC in the African and Afro-American studies department and the illiteracy problems at UNC and at colleges and universities across the nation.
Wainstein: ‘Don’t Have Findings Yet’
Story originally posted 10:38 a.m., June 20, 2014
Attorney Kenneth Wainstein told the UNC Board of Governors Friday that not only will he not share findings of his investigation into UNC’s academic irregularities, but that he doesn’t yet have any findings. He says the investigation is ongoing.
“Our investigation is not complete, and until our investigation is complete, we will not have final findings,” Wainstein said. “Those findings, as President Ross said, will be put together into a report, which will be made public at the end of our investigation.”
***Listen to the Complete Update***
That was the first time Wainstein publicly spoke about his investigation.
The 19-year veteran attorney was retained by the University in January after the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and Orange and Chatham County district attorney Jim Woodall concluded their investigations into UNC’s African and Afro-American (AFAM) Studies Department and its chair Julius Nyang’oro.
That investigation led to the indictment of Nyang’oro 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. Woodall said no further charges will be made against Nyang’oro or any other person involved.
Nyang’oro has had his first appearance in court, but his trial is still pending. The University said he has returned the $12,000.
Wainstein said he and his associates are using every resource possible to aid in their findings, which is something he said previous investigations into this topic weren’t able to include.
“We’ve interviewed over 80 people so far—a number of them we’ve interviewed more than one occasion,” Wainstein said. “We’ve collected and searched over 1.5 million emails and electronic documents. We’re also analyzing thousands of student records, including transcripts, going back to the early ‘90s and even into the ‘80s.”
On June 6, former UNC basketball standout Rashad McCants went on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and said that tutors wrote papers for him, he remained eligible only because of phony “paper classes” – and that his coaches, including Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on.
McCants comments marked the first time someone associated with the UNC men’s basketball program said it, too, was part of the academic scandal.
Wainstein told reporters Friday that McCants is not among the 80 people who have been interviewed, despite the attempt.
“We’ve intended to speak to him,” Wainstein said. “We actually invited him to come in for an interview back in May. At that time, he declined our invitation. He said that at that time he did not want to speak to us. Then he had his interview and spoke publicly. So, we’re hopeful that that is sort of a changed circumstance that might want him to want to speak to us, so we’ve now sent a new letter reiterating our invitation to speak to him. So, we’re hopeful that that will happen.”
Nyang’oro and a long-time department administrator, Deborah Crowder, have been mostly unavailable for questions leading up to this investigation. However, Wainstein says he has received full cooperation from them.
“In terms of their willingness to sit down with us, they’ve made themselves completely available to us; they’ve given us as much time as we’ve asked for and met with us on every occasion we’ve asked them to meet,” Wainstein said.
Wainstein emphasized that this investigation is completely separate from the University, and that the decision was made to keep it that way in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.
He added that his job is only to investigate the academic irregularities and present a report, but not to suggest a course of action to take based on those findings.
“What they’ll do with that, that’s for them to decide,” Wainstein said. “I heard, this morning, President Ross talking about how he’s looking forward to getting the report and getting the findings and then taking any actions that might be pointed up by any of those findings.”
System President Tom Ross said he couldn’t speak to what kind of actions would be taken, because he doesn’t have the report yet. However, he said that he’s said from the beginning that UNC is ready to take any actions necessary.
“When he’s finished, we’ll take the appropriate steps, and we’ll take whatever additional steps are necessary to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again, and then we’ll move on,” President Ross said.
President Ross told the Board, before Wainstein gave his update Friday, that no limitations were placed on Wainstein’s investigation and that he was instructed to go where the information leads him.
“Chancellor Folt and I directed and gave Mr. Wainstein the full authority to follow the facts wherever they lead and to attempt to address definitively how and why academic irregularities occurred at UNC-Chapel Hill,” President Ross said. “
Wainstein told the Board he chooses to use the term “paper classes” when discussing the focus of the investigation. The media has chosen multiple additional terms, including fake classes and no-show classes. He listed many questions he said he and his associates are using as base questions in the investigation, including a major focus on which classes in the AFAM department were independent studies, what was learned in those classes, if there was any inappropriate assistance in the classes, which personnel on campus knew about the irregularities, and many more.
Wainstein is a partner with the Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft law firm’s Washington branch. He had associates Colleen Kukowski and Joseph Jay in attendance with him, who he said are assisting him in the investigation.
No timeframe was given for the conclusion of the investigation, but Wainstein said he hopes to have the investigation wrapped up before the start of the fall semester.
UNC system spokesperson Joni Worthington said the University has not yet received any bills from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
UNC To Receive Wainstein Update
UNC will receive a “high-level” update at Friday’s Board of Governors meeting from the investigator hired to conduct an independent investigation into the University’s past academic and athletic irregularities.
The University hired former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein in January to conduct the investigation.
Wainstein has informed UNC that no factual findings will be shared in the update, because his investigation is not yet complete. He has told the University that he hopes to have the investigation concluded before classes begin this fall.
In response to a request for a statement from UNC about the latest in the investigation and the academic scandal, the University released the following:
“At this time, we think it is best to allow Ken Wainstein to continue his work without the University creating a concurrent review of every claim that arises. Once Mr. Wainstein has completed his work, and makes that public, we will be very interested in sharing our plans for moving forward.”
BOG Addresses Substances On Campus
CHAPEL HILL – Earlier this year Governor Pat McCrory challenged the UNC Board of Governors to look at its substance abuse challenges on campus.
Vice Chairman, Frank Grainger, engaged with Governor Pat McCrory, head of the ABC Jim Gardner, Frank Perry from Public Safety, and a few others on Sept. 4 about the strong presence of drugs and alcohol on campus.
“It appears that drugs are becoming more and more prevalent on our campuses” Grainger said.
Grainger says that campuses across the state have been seeing a higher level of substances because drug “pushers” are moving away from the areas they used to frequent.
“Drugs pushers are moving to the campuses more than to the urban parts of the cities now, because they feel that the campuses have more money on them, etcetera and is an easier push for them,” Grainger stated “and the Governor is not messing around with this.”
Another meeting between the Board of Governors and Governor McCrory is scheduled for Tuesday. Grainger says they plan on working with the campus police chiefs, ABC, and Public safety to coordinate and work together on this issue.
“The president and I have been talking and we’re going to bring all of our police campus chiefs together and let them tell us what’s going on, on their particular campuses so we can report this back” Grainger said.
Along with the drug “pushers,” stores that supply underage students with alcohol will be targeted as a source of the problem. Working with the ABC and public safety will allow for the BoG to challenge the substances that are coming to campuses.
The next Board of Governor’s meeting is October 11 and will discuss the September 17 meeting with Governor Pat McCrory.
UNC BoG Recognizes Former Governor Holshouser
CHAPEL HILL – The UNC BOG recognized our former Governor James Holshouser and honored his life with an award in his name. UNC System President Tom Ross says Holshouser was a great leader and influenced many.
“This University and our entire state lost a consummate public servant, a source of infinite wisdom and a true statesman, this summer with the passing of Jim Holshouser” Ross stated.
Holshouser served as Governor of North Carolina from 1973 to 1977. He also served on the Board of Governors for the UNC system for more than 30 years where many members have said they valued his thoughts and practices.
“I always told people that Governor Holshouser should have been named Mr. E.F. Hutton, because when he spoke truly everyone listened” Ross said “in word and indeed he personified the true meaning of statesmanship and servant leadership, and our university had no greater friend or stronger ally.”
To honor Holshouser the BOG voted to change the name of their public service award to the Governor Holshouser award for excellence in public service. This award was originally created in 2007 to encourage, identify, recognize, and reward public service by faculty of the University. Holshouser exemplified many of the characteristics that this award represents. BOG member Peter Hans says words do not describe the loss of Holshouser.
“President mentioned in his remarks, we lost a giant in June, and a man who epitomizes public service” Hans commented.
The board also recognized another BOG member that recently passed, Julius Chambers. Chambers was a civil rights attorney for many years along with Chancellor of North Carolina Central University.
For more information on James Holshouser click here.
UNC System Cuts Energy/Water Costs By 20/40%
CHAPEL HILL – The UNC Board of Governors is working to cut energy and water costs for the schools to make a more efficient system and President Tom Ross says the schools are making small changes to save big.
“You may recall that our strategic plan identifies some key areas of work, like including energy-related research, analysis, instruction, and outreach, where with targeted investments UNC, we believe, can make a real and meaningful difference,” Ross says.
The UNC system averages $225 million per year on energy and water costs. Since last year the university system has saved $63 million in energy costs and $13.7 million in water costs. Since the 2002-2003 school year the total equals $297 million in savings.
System wide, the schools have managed to cut electricity by 20 percent and water by 40 percent, and President Ross says there are more plans to continue making the University more efficient.
“To date, this board has authorized 15 guaranteed energy performance projects across the system,” Ross says. “Ten of these projects are currently under contract producing energy savings of more than $10 million per year.”
Current energy sources can be costly in terms of money and for the environment. The UNC system has often been at the forefront of innovation and new ideas, and energy is no different. Ross says that UNC will stay at the forefront when dealing with energy and water to improve the system.
“Recognizing that most sources of easily accessible energy are limited and that many are non-renewable, the plan calls for UNC to be in the forefront, in collaboration with private industry and non-profit organizations and making discoveries that will fuel our state and the world in the future,” Ross says.
The University schools have worked to reduce costs of energy and water by substantial amounts. However, Ross says that they will continue to work and cut costs for expenses like water and energy.
“But we know we can do more, and we have as a collective goal in our university system to save $1 billion over the next 20 years in water and energy costs,” Ross says. “And while the financial savings are important, we will also be helping to preserve our natural and environmental resources for future generations. “Water, for example, is, we believe, the new precious metal, and we have to be sure its preserved as a public asset and that we protect our water supplies and find new ways to reduce consumption.”
UNC has implemented many ways to conserve water, like grey water in the bathrooms. The University says plans like these will continue to appear as it works to conserve resources.
Math Mistake Means One Out, Another In On UNC Board
RALEIGH – A math error by North Carolina House members counting ballots means one person elected to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors this week won’t join the panel after all.
The House elected eight people to the board Wednesday, like lawmakers do every two years. But House Rules Chairman Tim Moore announced Thursday the House clerk’s office had determined a number was transposed as he and other lawmakers tallied ballots for 14 nominees.
The chamber made several parliamentary maneuvers and recounted the ballots. Seven of the eight nominees elected Wednesday still won Thursday. But the new tally shows Jim Nance of Albemarle actually lost and G.A. Sywassink won.
The House says Sywassink is CEO of Standard Holding Corp.
The Senate also elected eight people Wednesday to the 32-member board.
Legislators Elect Next Class To Serve On UNC Board
RALEIGH – The General Assembly has elected its next class of 16 people to serve on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.
The House and Senate held separate elections Wednesday to pick eight people apiece to serve on the 32-member board, which sets policy for UNC’s 17 campuses. They’ll serve four-year terms.
New board members include former state Rep. Laura Wiley of Greensboro, Hendrick Motorsports executive Scott Lampe of Davidson, Raleigh attorney Steven Long and Greenville radio personality Henry Hinton.
House Democrats and Republicans argued about the election, won mostly by Republican nominees. Rep. Mickey Michaux of Durham says it’s a travesty Republicans didn’t support some Democrats to promote board diversity.
House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes of Granite Falls says his side makes no apologies for electing Republicans.
UNC Turning To “Competency-Based” Approach
CHAPEL HILL – As the UNC system reexamines its strategic goals for the next five years, university officials have turned to employers and business leaders to identify key needs—and the result of that will be a new focus on a novel academic approach called “competency-based learning.”
That’s according to UNC president Tom Ross, who says today’s business leaders want people who can think and communicate effectively for themselves.
“When we talk to people–business leaders and other employers of all types–they tell us what they need more than anything else who can think critically, who can write and communicate orally, who can understand how to use data, how to look at a variety of different disciplinary concerns to solve problems, (and) how to work in teams,” Ross says. “Those are the core ‘competencies’ that employers need.”
More information on “competency-based education” available here, here, here, here, andhere. (Online universities have been a driving force in the CBE movement so far–most notably Western Governors University, based in Utah.)
The competency-based learning approach focuses on developing broader, widely-applicable skills—like writing and critical thinking—rather than particular bits of information or specific knowledge about specific jobs. In essence it suggests a return to the liberal arts and a recommitment to developing well-rounded graduates with a strong intellectual core—a task that UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp says has been a strength of the UNC system from the beginning.
And while employers say they need competent workers for jobs right now, Thorp says the real strength of “competency-based learning” is in how it trains students to adapt to the as-yet-unknown jobs of the future.
“If a student is a junior in high school now…by the time they get out (of college) it’s five, six years from now–and the rate of change in the economy right now, with technology and migration, is so fast,” he says. “We need to give students the ability to teach themselves the jobs of the future, because we can’t prepare them for jobs that don’t exist yet.”
Right now, the competency-based approach is still in development. Ross says turning to it now will not only benefit today’s students—it’ll also put UNC on the cutting edge of an educational trend that’s only going to become more mainstream in the coming years.
“Really nobody’s doing competency-based education,” he says. “The assessment tools available to look at it are still in development and relatively new. So it’s new territory–but (it’s) ground we need to plow, if we’re going to be a successful university in the future.”
The focus on “competency-based learning” is part of the UNC system’s new five-year strategic plan, which the UNC Board of Governors is currently examining. The Board saw a draft of the plan at their meeting earlier this month; it’s expected to approve the final version in February.
Ross: UNC Strategic Plan Blends Quality Education, Job Needs
CHAPEL HILL – This week, the UNC Board of Governors examined the first draft of the strategic plan that will govern the university for the next five years—and system president Tom Ross says he’s confident it will move UNC in the right direction.
“What’s most exciting to me about this plan is (that) it really incorporates together our responsibility to help the state be prepared to meet the workforce demands of the future, but to do it with high academic quality,” he says.
Read the plan here.
The five-year plan is entitled “Our Time, Our Future: The UNC Compact with North Carolina,” written by UNC’s Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions. That committee generated some controversy in the fall, as some observers complained that there weren’t enough members with direct UNC ties—and that those who were on the committee were not sufficiently committed to the value of higher education.
But Ross says he’s happy with the finished product regardless.
“At the end of the day,” he said at Friday’s meeting, “I think everyone is committed to endorsing a plan that ensures an affordable, high-quality education for our students and that effectively and efficiently responds to the evolving state needs.”
The 66-page draft released this week comprises the first three chapters of a five-chapter plan, corresponding to five overarching goals: graduating a higher percentage of North Carolinians; improving academic quality; serving the people of the state; maximizing efficiency; and maintaining affordability, accessibility, and financial stability.
Read a recap of the first day of the Board’s two-day meeting.
In order to accomplish those ends, the plan proposes a variety of specific objectives. Among those are a targeted focus on particular research areas, an added commitment to online education or “distance learning”—and an ambitious goal of raising the number of North Carolinians with bachelor’s and professional degrees.
Right now about 30 percent of North Carolinians have degrees; the plan is to raise that to 32 percent by 2018. It doesn’t sound like a big increase, but Ross says that would make North Carolina one of the most educated states in the U.S.
“It’s a challenge,” he says. “It’s not going to be easy….But I think if we want to be the most competitive state to attract new business and to be able to meet the workforce demands that are going to be there, we need to be able to meet this goal.”
Also on the table is a potentially controversial proposal to eliminate the cap on the number of out-of-state students UNC can accept in a given year. Right now, no more than 18 percent of students in a class can be non-residents—but out-of-state students pay more in tuition, so there’s a financial incentive to bring more in. Then again, North Carolina prides itself on its constitutional commitment to educational accessibility for all residents—so there are many who object to a proposal that seems to close the door.
Ross says he’s not sure what will happen, but it’s a conversation worth having.
“We’re still at the preliminary stage, and we’ve gotten some good feedback,” he says. “Whether any discussion of removing the cap continues to be a part of the plan–I don’t know. We’re still receiving feedback on that, and there are people who feel strongly both ways.”
The Board of Governors only began considering the draft this week, but the timetable is a speedy one: the Board is planning to approve a final draft at its next meeting on February 8.