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Academic Scandal: ‘A Shared Culpability’

In early April, more than 30 retired UNC faculty members in a letter published in the News and Observer, urged those currently employed by the University to demand answers from the administration into how academic improprieties could have taken place for so long and why the administration has been so quiet about the academic scandal.

UNC’s Faculty Chair-elect, Bruce Cairns says before blame is spread too far, it’s important to remember just how far back the scandal reaches.

“We all share culpability in this,” Dr. Cairs says. “It’s difficult: if you’ve been associated with the University as a faculty member for the past 20-plus years, then there can be questions asked that encompass all of us. And, so, the issue is, what should we be doing now as faculty?”

These comments were made during a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

***Listen to Part 4***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Dr. Cairns says he holds high value in what the former faculty members have to say and that he wants to create ways that they can provide input to better the future of Carolina.

Dr. Cairns is the Jaycee Burn Center director and John Stackhouse Distinguished Professor of Surgery. He was recently elected as chair of the faculty at UNC and will take over from Jan Boxill at the start of the new academic year on July 1. The faculty chair position holds a three-year term.

Dr. Cairns uses the idiom, ‘those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw the first stone’ when describing the ongoing conversation about the scandal. He says its important that, in the world of academia, the conversation remain civil.

“I think the vigorous discussion and debate is totally appropriate,” Dr. Cairns says. “Do I think it’s helpful to says somebody’s not doing their job and that kind of thing? Probably not, because everybody’s working hard, and we’re trying to do the best we can. But I absolutely respect people’s opinion and that they’re unhappy and upset about what has occurred. We all are.”

The WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner featuring Dr. Bruce Cairns will air Saturday and Sunday at 12:00 noon on 97.9 FM, 1360 AM, and streaming here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/academic-scandal-shared-culpability/

‘Stop Publicly Debating Struggling Athletes’

UNC students participating in revenue-generating sports have been thrown under the microscope and the quality of the education they are receiving has been called into question. Carolina’s Faculty Chair-elect, Bruce Cairns, says the conversation has gone down the wrong path.

“The ones that are struggling, we shouldn’t be personally debating them out in public like this,” Dr. Cairns says. “We should be figuring out a way to support them.”

Those comments were made during a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

***Listen to Part 3***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Dr. Cairns is the Jaycee Burn Center director and John Stackhouse Distinguished Professor of Surgery. He was recently elected as chair of the faculty at UNC and will take over from Jan Boxill at the start of the new academic year on July 1. The faculty chair position holds a three-year term.

The public debates increased when academic advisor Mary Willingham blew the whistle on research she conducted in which she says she found 60 percent of a sample of athletes at UNC read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. The sample was 176 athletes chosen from 2004-2012.

The way in which Willingham got the data has also been questioned as she has been accused receiving the names of the athletes along with the test scores. When she applied for her research, she said she would not be receiving identifiable information with the tests and that they would be coded. However, she says the reason she knows who the struggling athletes at UNC were is because they were her students, not because she saw names on the test scores.

UNC has conducted a number of internal investigations to see where corrections need to be made. A number of external investigations have also been conducted, both by the request of UNC and not, to find the flaws.

Outside Experts’ Review of Mary Willingham’s Research

Kenneth Wainstein

Dr. Cairns says he believes there’s one clear-cut way to prevent future problems.

“As we move forward, what we have to stand for is academic integrity, as opposed to (being) against something, whether it’s athletics or performing arts or something else,” Dr. Cairns says. “If we stand for our academic integrity and then we stand for making sure we have policies and procedures in place to ensure that that happens, then people can have confidence that we’re doing what we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

The WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner featuring Dr. Bruce Cairns will air Saturday and Sunday at 12:00 noon on 97.9 FM, 1360 AM, and streaming here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/stop-publicly-debating-struggling-athletes/

Media Focus: UNC Academic Scandal

The place and way in which a long-lasting, controversial topic is covered plays a major role in the public’s perception, and UNC Faculty Chair-elect, Bruce Cairns says that’s weighing heavily on the University’s academic scandal.

“Structure and hierarchy is important. There are reporting systems that are in place and then groups that are in charge of unit—various units sit down together and discuss these issues—and then that’s how problems are solved,” Dr. Cairns says. “If, however, that hierarchy and that system is not used and, instead, we discuss this in a very public forum, then it becomes difficult amidst all of that discussion to really get all of that addressed.”

These comments were made during a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

 ***Listen to Part 2***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Dr. Cairns served in the Navy, where he says he learned that hierarchy. He is the Jaycee Burn Center director and John Stackhouse Distinguished Professor of Surgery. He was recently elected as chair of the faculty at UNC and will take over from Jan Boxill at the start of the new academic year on July 1. The faculty chair position holds a three-year term.

Despite all the constant, mostly-negative coverage of the academic scandal, Dr. Cairns says he believes this is a situation that UNC can recover from over time.

“You mentioned things like train wreck and canyon; I know that the focus has been on dealing with the issues we talked about with the budget as well as getting the leadership team in and then trying to create the structural framework for how to address issues like this,” Dr. Cairns says. “As we’ve already admitted, this is one of the most challenging academic issues we have had. So, I think the attempts have really been made to begin that dialogue—or actally have that dialogue; and, in fact, I’ve seen it; I’ve been a part of it.”

The results of another investigation, currently underway by former Assistant Attorney General for National Security and Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, Kenneth Wainstein, are expected sometime this summer.

The WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner featuring Dr. Bruce Cairns will air Saturday and Sunday at 12:00 noon on 97.9 FM, 1360 AM, and streaming here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/media-focus-unc-academic-scandal/

Boxill: N&O Took ‘Booster’ Email Out Of Context

Photo by Dan Sears

CHAPEL HILL – In mid-July, UNC’s Faculty Chair, Jan Boxill, was accused by the News and Observer of a cover-up for an internal University email about how to title a supporter of athletics in regards to the review of the African and Afro-American Studies Department.

Boxill says she was cast in a negative light just by trying to help the University in a time when it was on thin ice with the NCAA, the media, and even the public.

“It’s painful,” Boxill says. “I’ve been trying—in very many ways—to get out in front of some of the things and also to recognize that no issue is simple.”

The AFAM scandal prompted internal reviews, as well as a review by former North Carolina governor, Jim Martin, which concluded, among other things, that the issue within the department dated back to 1997, and an ongoing review led by the president of the Association of American Universities, Hunter Rawlings.

Aside from being the faculty chair, Boxill is the Director of the Parr Center for Ethics and a senior lecturer in philosophy. She says one of the areas she teaches a lot about is taking the broad approach rather than narrowing the focus.

“Every issue we deal with is complex, whether it’s affirmative action, whether it’s abortion, whether it’s the voters’ rights,” Boxill says. “It’s so complicated. But, when we try to just sort of focus on one part of it, you lose the force.”

And she says that by the N&O pointing out just a small segment of a chain of emails written between faculty, the issue was taken out of context.

“It’s easy to criticize one aspect, but if you look at the overarching, then you see there’s a lot more strands than just the single issue, because it’s always easy to take a single issue,” Boxill says.

Boxill explains the correspondence in question was within a subcommittee she formed out of the elected Faculty Executive Committee of which she says she found three of the most critically-minded faculty. She says she formed the subcommittee after four or five faculty told her enough was enough and that the faculty needed to take a proactive approach and get to the bottom of the situation.

“It had nothing to do with the NCAA,” Boxill says. “This was clearly only a faculty committee.”

The N&O reported that Boxill urged a change in the reports’ wording so the NCAA wouldn’t return for another round of investigations. However, Boxill says the requested change came down to the use of the term booster when describing Debbie Crowder in the subcommittee’s report.

“Booster has a specific meaning for the NCAA as somebody brough up in the meeting—not me,” Boxill says. “They said let’s change it then, because we’re not intending to use their definition. We’re looking at it as simply a supporter.”

She says the subcommittee then decided that anyone could be a supporter of athletics.

“In the end, people thought that this claim was irrelevant or it wasn’t important, because it didn’t change any of the recommendations,” Boxill says. “It was the recommendations that we thought were most important; they stayed; and it was out of those recommendations came the Governor Martin report and the Hunter Rawlings panel which we’re still waiting on.”

The public release of the emails, as requested by the N&O, came nearly a year after they were written, which Boxill attributes to the mere fact of the high volume of public information requested.

Boxill says the fact that the information was received in email form and without the whole story—the narrow focus rather than broad, as she mentioned—likely contributed to the situation being taken out of context.

“Emails are not the best way to communicate, because you read them as you want to read them not as perhaps they were intended,” Boxill says.

Boxill’s three-year term as faculty chair expires in June. She says, while she’s enjoyed her time in that position, she’ll be continuing to focus on reviewing policies and procedures at UNC in new and different ways, including a summit this spring in which she says she will be teaming up with different departments of the University.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/boxill-no-took-booster-email-out-of-context/