Willingham Blasts NCAA For Academic Improprieties

CHAPEL HILL - UNC clinical instructor and academic advisor, Mary Willingham said the academic problems at Carolina and at colleges and universities across the country start with the NCAA. 

“This NCAA cartel machine is doing us wrong in this country and doing our young people some damage,” Willingham said. “Meanwhile, these folks are in Indiannoplis—and around the country, coaches and administrators—are making tons of money off the backs of these young people, and it’s got to stop.”

Those comments were made during an interview Friday on the WCHL Morning News.

***Watch the Full Interview***

***Correction from the interview: The IRB is the Institutional Review Board, not the Internal Review Board.

She said the admission of guilt by the university, and namely UNC Provost Jim Dean, that there were holes in the academic system is not enough.

“I really encourage (Provost Dean) to talk to us about what we know—Jay and I and others in the Athletic Reform Group—and open the door and have a real open conversation, because that has yet to happen at our university,” Willingham said. “It’s a university for crying out loud. We should all be able to sit around the room and have honest conversation and debate about what we know.”

Provost Dean was quoted in a Bloomberg Business Week article saying “We made mistakes. Horrible things happened that I’m ashamed of. Student-athletes and other students, too, were hurt. The integrity of our university was badly damaged.”

History professor Jay Smith was in the interview as well and announced that he—in collaboration with Willingham—is writing a book that talks 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.

Smith said he, too, wants to see something more than just words come from the recent allegations of UNC’s academic improprieties.

“There’s nothing qualitatively different from any number of statements Holden Thorp made over the past several years before he left,” Smith said. “Holden, too, was willing to acknowledge mistakes had been made and that we had to be held accountable for them. Though, at least it does, on their part, signal a new willingness to look at the past and consider which lessons need to be derived from the past. So that’s…that is somewhat heartening.”

Willingham has been seen by many as an enemy to the university when she shared her research. She received death threats and was even called a liar by Provost Dean when he said in a Business Week article “she’s said that our students can’t read, our athletes can’t read, and that’s a lie.” Later in the interview for the article with Business Week’s Paul Barrett, the Provost said he had misspoken and doesn’t think that she’s a liar.

Willingham said she didn’t release the information with the intention of taking down the university.

“I really am a Tar Heel,” Willingham said. “I know what’s heard to believe, but I love this place.”

She said she wants to see a change in the way student-athletes are taken care of at the university and how they are viewed within the system.

“We had a countless number of athletes that I worked with during my tenure—nearly seven years—in the program that left without a real degree,” Willingham said. “We still don’t talk about those guys. They took all these bogus paper classes, and they left the university still woefully underprepared for probably even a high school. That’s wrong, and we owe them. We need to bring them back, and we need to offer them the possibility of a real, legitimate education. That’s what we promised them in the first place.”

She said that she’s not even saying that students who can’t read at a college level don’t have a place at UNC, but that those who are at a disadvantage need to be protected.

“I’ve never said that athletes or any students at Carolina don’t belong at Carolina,” Willingham said. “It’s a public university; it’s a university of the people. But I think if we’re going to take students in, then we need to meet them where they’re at academically and bring them along. That’s all students.”

“I think we still have this, some sort of arrogance or some level of problem—I don’t know exactly where it comes from—because in 1795 we had an academy at the University of North Carolina for young men from the state who weren’t able to read in Greek and Latin,” Willingham said. “That academy lasted for a decade or a little bit more. Why don’t we just reopen the academy, and we could have the best football team and the best basketball team in the country. We could recruit whoever we wanted, and we could provide a real education.”

Thursday evening the News and Observer shared a letter that former interim dean of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and current Kenan Professor Emerita of Slavic Literatures, Madeline Levine wrote to Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean expressing her disappointment in the attack of the information shared by Willingham.

In the letter, she said she, too, saw evidence of students that’s were just pushed through the system and weren’t given a proper education.

Willingham said she expects this is just the first of many to follow in her push for academic reform.

“I have more than 2,000 emails,” Willingham said. “I’m hearing from people all over the country. They’re embarrassed; they feel some shame, because they don’t want to speak publically, and I’m certainly not going to bring anyone under the bus with me, because it’s not too pretty under here. But, nevertheless, I think that coming out and talking openly has given some people permission, and I think you’re going to hear from more people. I don’t think Dr. Levine’s going to be the only one stepping forward.”


Kenan-Flagler Dean Search Committee Recommends Hire From Within

CHAPEL HILL – The associate dean of the MBA@UNC program and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation, Douglas A. Shackelford has been recommended as the Kenan-Flagler Business School’s next dean.

By presenting the recommendation to the Board of Trustees this week, Chancellor Carol Folt and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean approve the selection made by the search committee led by J-School dean, Susan King.

Listen to Shackelford’s conversation with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.

Information provided by the Kenan-Flagler Business School

Information provided by the Kenan-Flagler Business School

With the confirmation by the BoT, Shackelford will replace Jack Evans who has been serving as interim dean since Jim Dean was chosen as UNC’s Provost last year. Although the search was international, the internal hire marks the second in a row for Kenan-Flagler as Jim Dean was promoted from senior associate dean.

Shackelford graduated from UNC in 1980 with a business degree. In the mid to late 80s he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He’s served on the faculty since 1990. His research and teaching focuses on taxes and business strategy. He’s held the position of associate dean on the MBA@UNC since 2010.

He spent some time off campus in the private sector before returning to teach. From 1981 to 1985 he worked as a senior tax consultant for Arthur Anderson & Co. in Boston and Greensboro.


Chancellor Folt: Breaking Down The Silos At UNC

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said she wants to break down the silos at Carolina to allow the different schools and departments to better work together. These comments were made in a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

“Within departments, you no longer have people that were necessarily just of that field,” Chancellor Folt said. “So we organize around curricular fronts, but we work across those disciplines: biologists work with chemists work with social scientists. So whatever we can do that can make it easier for faculty to share in the teaching of courses, easier for students to work with faculty from more than one department.”

***Listen to Part II of WCHL’s News Special with the Chancellor***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

She said, in some cases, the breaking down of silos even allows for teachers and students to work across school borders.

“The biomedical engineering degree that has been created with State and with Carolina is one of the best examples in the nation that I can already see where people have de-silo-ed and tried to look for a new convergence,” Chancellor Folt says. “But it can happen in any department, and in any division of the institution.”

And, Chancellor Folt said this is something in which the department heads have already expressed interest.

“And there’s a lot of excitement about it, because faculty have known that some of the most exciting work comes when you’re in between things” Chancellor Folt says. “That’s where the energy arises. So, I think there’s a lot of will. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easy; sometimes you have to give up authority around certain functions that can then be shared. You know, there are decisions that have to come, but there’s certainly an appetite here.”

As budget cuts continue and the economy struggles to recover, added pressure is put on the finances of the University. The chancellor has a plane at her disposal, but this chancellor said when she gets the chance she’d rather take a car.

“We really try to minimize the use of the planes—at least for my travel,” Chancellor Folt says. “If it’s really necessary, I can use that.”

“Have you been cautioned about the use of planes?” Heavner asked. “There was a lot of criticism, a lot of attention to the previous chancellor’s use of the planes.

“I think we’re just very aware that we’re trying to keep our expenses down and do what we can to really run the institution with the dollars that we have in a very strategic way.”

Tune in to the WCHL Morning and Afternoon and Evening News to hear the interview with Chancellor Folt in four parts Monday through Thursday this week.

To read the other articles in this WCHL News Special series with the Chancellor, navigate below.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


Chancellor Folt: Not Looking Back When Making Hires

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Carol Folt hired UNC alumnus David Routh this September to fill the University’s role of Vice Chancellor for Development. In a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner, she said the former holder of that position, Matt Kupec, and his personality had nothing to do with the new hire.

“David Routh is—in many respects in terms of his personality—the anit-Matt Kupec,” Heaver said. “Matt was big, effusive, bold, and a former football player, a big sort of inspirational speaker. David Routh operates on a quieter plane.”

“Honestly, I’ve never met Matt,” Chancellor Folt said. “I really was looking for the person that could really be right for this position right now and could help take us forward.”

***Listen to Part I of WCHL’s News Special with the Chancellor***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Matt Kupec resigned from UNC in September 2012 after it was discovered that he and another employee, Tami Hansborough, misused university funds for personal trips.

The Chancellor has nearly filled her executive staff and is scheduled to announce the newest hire of the Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs on Monday.

Chancellor Folt said the number one priority for that position is crisis management.

“Every public relations person I knew believed that Chancellor Thorp, for example, should never have conducted a televised press conference to announce the firing of Butch Davis,” Heavner said. “Is that the sort of thing that you want your person to be tuned into?”

“Absolutely,” Chancellor Folt said. “The reason I try to keep this distinction is that I do think you have to deal with crisis management. But, you’re also dealing, as I say, with this content and this positive presentation of the work that happens here. I think you get in a problem if you think your public affair is only about crisis management, too. That would be a very narrow focus.”

Tune in to the WCHL Morning and Afternoon and Evening News to hear the interview with Chancellor Folt in four parts Monday through Thursday this week.

To read the other articles in this WCHL News Special series with the Chancellor, navigate below.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


UNC Chancellor Visits Raleigh On Day Two

CHAPEL HILL – Dr. Carol Folt’s tenure as UNC Chancellor is just more than 24 hours old, and the former Ivy-League-College leader is heading to Raleigh to meet with state leaders.

Chancellor Folt reportedly spent the first day in office assembling her cabinet and meeting with student and staff leaders. Tuesday, Chancellor Folt meets with Governor Pat McCrory and other legislative leaders after which she returns to campus to continue meeting with faculty and staff at UNC.

UNC’s new chancellor will be in attendance Thursday for the Town’s July 4th celebration in Kenan Stadium.


Thorp: Big Time Sports Support Academic Mission

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Thorp, who was besieged by problems with the football program that was placed on NCAA probation, has become a defender of big time athletics in his final days here.

***Listen to Part II of the Interview***

“These excellent private research universities that are not in Big Time Sports have a hard time getting their alumni to come back to campus, creating loyalty that transcends the majors that the undergraduates have that renowns to the greater university, and getting the general public to know about where their university is,” Chancellor Thorp says.

Washington University—where Chancellor Thorp is making the move to be provost—is a prime example. He says people often think it’s located in the northern west coast of the U.S. or in the Nation’s Capitol, while it’s actually in St. Louis.

But Carolina has Big Time Sports and has nearly 30,000 students, from which Chancellor Thorp says portions of all areas of the student body were attracted by athletics.

“It’s part of the culture of being here,” Chancellor Thorp says. “It’s part of the experience of being here. We have students apply to Carolina because they learned about it through big time sports, and that doesn’t just include undergraduate students who come here and do sports and aren’t serious students. That includes really great people that we really want here. And, when I was in the chemistry department, we had a lot of kids who had gone to liberal arts colleges that we wanted to come to Carolina for graduate school, and part of the allure for them was to be at a place where they could experience big time sports. So, yes it turns some people off; it turns some people on; but it is part of the Carolina culture, it is part of what we have here, and if you come to work here, you’ve agreed to come to work at a place that has big time sports.

These comments were made during a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner for a special end-of-term interview with the Chancellor.

The interview will be played in its entirety Saturday and Sunday.

To read about and hear part one, click here.


Thorp: Firing Butch Davis Today Would Not Go The Same Way

CHAPEL HILL – Outgoing UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp says that with his self-proclaimed enlightenment about college athletics that he did not have when he first became Chancellor, he would have handled the firing of football coach Butch Davis differently.  He made his comments in an extensive end-of-term interview with Jim Heavner.

***Listen to Part I of the Interview***

“The school acknowledged that we had broken the rules, why could you simply not have said…you didn’t have to do anything other than pick up the phone and call Dick Baddour and say, Dick, fire him,” Heavner says.

“Well I think that for all the reasons that I said earlier, it was hard to do it that way,” Chancellor Thorp says. “I think if something happened like that now, that is how it would go down…”

“So that’s meaning that’s what you would do today?” Heavner asks.

“Yeah,” Chancellor Thorp says. “And I think Bubba Cunningham—and you can get him on, and I think he’d say the same thing.”

“What you have said is that over the course of these years you would have learned that you would have done this differently, and I believe that you have said that you would have fired him earlier,” Heavner says. “You would have fired him when it was very clear that he had broken the rules, did I hear that correctly?”

“No,” Chancellor Thorp replies. “What I said was I would have wanted to have a system in place where the athletic director and I would have been able to talk the way that Bubba and I talk now which I take a big part of the responsibility for myself—which is to say that if we have a major violation in a program then that’s inexcusable.”

With less than three months until his departure, he says he’s not afraid to be honest in expressing that Carolina still has a lot of problems in the way it governs its athletic program.

You can hear part one of that interview Friday at 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. on WCHL. The complete interview will air next Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5.


Holden Thorp: “We Have A Lot Of Problems”

CHAPEL HILL – Outgoing UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp’s comments regarding the athletic hierarchy at colleges and universities, as prescribed by the NCAA and Knight Commission, have stirred controversy in the ongoing conversation of Big Time College Athletics. He says the amount of time he’s had to spend on this topic compared to the funding behind it doesn’t add up.

***Listen to Part 1 of the Interview***

“Athletics has a $70 million budget; the University has a $2.5 billion budget and another $2 billion in the hospital,” Chancellor Thorp says. “So, what’s our of whack here is the amount of interest, and when the amount of interest is distorted in that way, that’s what creates all these weird behaviors.”

He says it’s taken the entirety of his tenure at UNC to realize a simple fact—one of which UNC faculty member and former president of the Knight Foundation, Hodding Carter received with dismay.

“It’s easy for me to say now that it was hard for me to say five years ago and is hard for a lot of people in my role around the country to say, and one is: we have a lot of problems,” Chancellor Thorp says.

Chancellor Thorp says he knew his comments during an athletic panel last week were not going to be happily welcomed. But he says athletic oversight needs to be returned to the office of the athletic director.

“I think they had some very noble ideas,” Chancellor Thorp says. “But, basically if you look at what the Knight Commission said, they said, ‘well don’t trust the athletic directors to trust sports’. Well, what if we had a commission that said don’t trust the dean of medicine to trust the hospital?”

These comments were made during a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner. Part one of that interview can be heard Friday at 8:30 a.m. on the WCHL Morning News with Ron Stutts and again at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on the WCHL Afternoon and Evening News with Aaron Keck.

The complete special can be heard Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5 throughout the day.


UNC Provost Still To Step Down This Summer Amidst Admin Restructuring

CHAPEL HILL – It was rumored that UNC Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney might delay his stepping down due to the impending administrative changeover, but he says the plan to go back to teaching as of this summer is still in the works.

Carney has served as the University’s second in command since July 1, 2009. From that date until March 26, 2010 he held the position on an interim role until taking it on as a permanent role. During his time in that position, the University has been at the center of investigations including the academic scandal of the African and Afro-American Studies Department, an NCAA investigation that resulted in the firing of UNC’s head football coach and multiple athletic department resignations, and eventually the resignation of Chancellor Holden Thorp.

Carney says he’s confident that the University is at a place now where it can start to move on.

“Once we have the new chancellor in place…I don’t think they’ll completely go silent, but I think we can move past them and move on,” Carney says.

While scandal has been at the center of attention, that’s not all that University officials have to keep track of. The provost is also the chair of the budget committee and is responsible for leading the academic mission and overseeing academic administration.

One hire that Carney recently played a major role in was that of the director for the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes. After a national search, he says Florida Atlantic University’s Michelle Brown was by far the best fit.

“We had three excellent candidates show up for interviews,” Carney says. “She won the competition. She’s going to be an outstanding director.”

Brown will report to Carney’s successor when she takes the position May 6. Previously that role was a part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The search for UNC’s next provost is underway just as the search is for its next chancellor. Dean of the School of Nursing and Alumni Distinguished Professor at UNC, Dr. Kristen Swanson is chairing the search committee for the provost position. She and 20 other members began the search in February.

Just as the Chancellor Search Committee submits a list of finalists to System President Tom Ross, the Provost Search Committee will submit finalists to the new chancellor. The appointment of the new provost is expected to occur some time this spring.

To see the provost search announcement, click here.

To see the provost search committee leadership statement, click here.