CHAPEL HILL - UNC Provost Jim Dean said that he stands by the University’s analysis which refutes the claims made by Mary Willingham that a majority of student-athletes she studied had sub-par reading skills. At a Board of Trustees Committee meeting Wednesday, Dean said that the University has commissioned an independent review of Willingham’s data to verify if UNC’s take is true.
Dean said that Willingham’s raw data set and methodology will be independently evaluated by an outside group comprised of experts in educational testing, with a report based on the group’s findings to follow. He estimated that they will return the results within a couple of weeks.
Following the BoT University Affairs Committee meeting, Dean said that he couldn’t release the names of the experts at this time.
Willingham, a former athletics tutor, sparked the latest UNC scandal when she told CNN, in the now infamous article, that 60 percent of the 183 UNC athletes she researched read between a fourth and eighth grade reading level.
Last week, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, Director of Admissions Steve Farmer and Dean fired back, saying that Willingham’s methodology was incorrect and based on a vocabulary test that wasn’t designed to measure reading levels.
Willingham told WNCN Wednesday that the way Dean explained her data analysis was “100 percent incorrect.”
“I’ve already told you what I think [about the data]—but I think it is a fair question. We can verify that with outside experts. That process is going on right now. As soon as we have the data back, we will let you know,” Dean said.
UNC Faculty Chair Jan Boxill acknowledged that some student athletes come in less prepared than their peers and face many challenges.
“Can we say that everybody got the same kind of education? Nobody [can]. So I think that we provide an opportunity for everybody here to have a quality education. People make choices, and so they have the opportunities to do lots,” Boxill said.
Student-Athlete Academic Initiatives Working Group
During the committee meeting, Dean outlined the progress of the Student-Athlete Academic Initiatives Working Group.
The Working Group, which began meeting last September, is examining current practices and policies that govern the approximately 800 student-athletes at Carolina. The goal is to document student-athletes from recruitment to graduation. Members include Dean, Farmer and Bubba Cunningham Director of Athletics.
“This Working Group is one of the great symbols of a University that is striving, without perfection, but striving to try to integrate, in the best possible way academic life and athletic life,” Dean said.
There are 22 processes governing the lives of student athletes. Dean said the Working Group has documented 8 or 9 of them.
“We know we have documentation of the admissions process and some of the registration processes. This is how we are going to govern student athletes from the academic side going forward.”
Dean said the Working Group meets about every three weeks, including a meeting this Friday, with three coaches joining discussions on the topic of recruiting.
“We hope that the work that we do will be useful to other universities around the country because the issues that we are facing—and you know this—are not unique.”
A detailed public document mapping all of the changes that have been made will be released when the Working Group’s efforts are completed.
Boxill added that there will be a national sports summit held in Chapel Hill on May 2 and 3 called “True Sport You: The Impact of College Athletics on Education, Youth Sport, & American Culture.” The summit was organized by leaders from UNC and Penn State, two universities that have felt the effects of sports scandals.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-commissions-outside-experts-review-willinghams-data/
CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Carol Folt joined other University leaders Friday to counter the findings of former athletic tutor Mary Willingham, who raised concerns about the literacy levels of student athletes. Faculty leadership said those claims were “erroneous” and derived from a vocabulary test that was not intended to measure reading levels.
At a packed Faculty Council meeting, Provost Jim Dean said Willingham’s research that purported a majority of Carolina’s student athletes read at a level no higher than eighth grade were based on the Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA). It is a vocabulary test that the University used to screen some student-athletes for potential learning differences/learning disabilities until the 2012-2013 school year. The SATA is not affiliated with the SAT administered by the College Board.
Dean said it is not intended to measure reading competency.
“I will make this personal. My conclusion, based on working with the team doing the analysis, is that any claim made based on this data set is virtually meaningless. It has been grossly unfair to our students. Many of you are faculty and have had these students in class. Using this data set to say that our students cannot read is a travesty,” Dean said.
University officials said they had not seen the full data set that Willingham shared with CNN until Monday in the now infamous article.
Willingham stated publicly that she repeatedly tried to share the data with University officials to raise awareness about the literacy problems she said she had observed.
As reported in the CNN article, Willingham researched the reading levels of 183 UNC football and basketball players from 2004 to 2012. She said that she found that 60 percent read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels.
Folt joined Dean and Steve Farmer, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions, to refute Willingham’s assertion.
“Those grade equivalents were never meant to predict grade equivalence and reading levels. They may, at best, [show] something about vocabulary, but they are not meant to [be interpreted] that way. It is a part of a bigger analysis you do when you do the whole series of tests,” Folt said.
After examining Willingham’s findings, CNN consulted its own “academic experts” and determined that the threshold for being college-literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.
CNN’s investigation revealed that in most schools, 7 to 18 percent of revenue-sport athletes read at an elementary school level.
Released Thursday, Carolina’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions used CNN’s definition to analyze UNC’s own SAT and ACT data for special-talent student-athletes enrolled as first-year students.
UNC’s analysis found that between 2004 and 2012, the same time period examined by CNN, Carolina enrolled 1,377 first-year student-athletes through the special-talent policies and procedures.
More than 97 percent of those students met the CNN threshold, according to UNC. Thirty-nine students, fewer than 3 percent, did not.
This data was released the same day University officials revoked Willingham’s research privileges. UNC said the suspension was due to violations of federal and University policies regarding the identification of individual students.
During the hour-long presentation to faculty, Dean shared that this has been a period of hardship for the University.
“Whether you believe the allegations or do not believe the allegations, it has been a source of pain across the University to whatever extent you believe what has been said—it is painful. This is either because you believe that there are some really ugly facts about the University, our admissions process and our student athletes, or you believe that there have been unfair accusations made, or perhaps some combination of the two,” Dean said.
Folt said that Willingham’s raw data set and methodology will be independently evaluated by an outside group, with a report based on the group’s findings to follow.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/chancellor-folt-unc-leaders-say-whistleblowers-datacollection-methods-wrong/
CHAPEL HILL – Former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp returned to Chapel Hill this weekend. It was his first time back on campus since he departed this summer for Washington University in Saint Louis to take on his new role as Provost.
“It’s great being back in Chapel Hill, seeing old friends, and seeing a lot of the things I started and how they are doing,” Thorp said. “It’s good seeing the campus in such a great spirit and things going so well so well for Chancellor Folt.”
Thorp gave a lecture on Sunday about the importance of the study of the Humanities at the University.
Following his talk, he received several standing ovations from a crowd which included Chair of the UNC Board of Trustees Lowry Caudill and Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham.
Chancellor Carol Folt took over as the University’s leader on July 1. Thorp said he met with Carolina’s first female chancellor on Friday for an extended lunch to catch up.
During his time as Chancellor, Thorp led Carolina through academic and athletic scandals which still haunt the University to this day.
Last year, Thorp announced his intention to step down as Chancellor into a faculty role effective June 30, but he later decided to depart Chapel Hill and accepted the Provost position at Washington University.
“The Provost job is a job that is well suited to me. My boss and me are completely in sync on many different things. It is a university that is unapologetically bold in its aspirations for academic excellence.”
Thorp on UNC sports
Thorp, an avid sports fan, said he didn’t make it over to Raleigh to watch the Tar Heel football team defeat N.C. State 27-19 on Saturday, but he did find a way to celebrate the game here in Chapel Hill.
“My college roommate and I watched it on TV,” Thorp said. “At halftime, to feel like old times, we walked over to the Yogurt Pump for some frozen yogurt, which is what we used to do when we lived in Connor Dorm 30 years ago.”
Thorp said he wouldn’t be able to make it back for many basketball games in Chapel Hill, but said he was still nevertheless ready for UNC’s first game of the season this Friday against the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies.
“I hadn’t bought a television in a long time, and I bought myself a very large HD TV, so I’m looking forward to basketball season.”
On his legacy
Leaving a legacy of encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation at Carolina, Thorp said he was most proud of his part in improving college accessibility during his time as Chancellor.
“It’s something I knew would be important to provide the kind of opportunity in a college education that happens here [UNC]. When you leave, you see how precious and wonderful a thing it is,” Thorp said. “I know Chancellor Folt is really amazed by that, coming from private, higher education. This tradition we have of meeting 100 percent of need and being need-blind and having 1-in-5 of our students being the first generation of in their family to go to college—I mean, God, that is even better and more important than I thought it was when I was here.”
As far as his plans to return to Chapel Hill one day, he said, “I’ve given up on trying to speculate what will happen in the future.”
Thorp said he will remain with Washington University for as long as he is needed.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/catching-up-with-former-unc-chancellor-holden-thorp/
CHAPEL HILL – Jan Boxill, UNC’s Faculty Chair, said Wednesday that significant progress has been made in achieving “balance” between athletics and academics at the University. In the wake of scandals that continue to haunt Carolina, the pressure is on to make changes and prevent future indiscretions.
“We can be a model for other Division I athletic programs,” Boxill said. “That doesn’t mean that we will reach complete agreement among the faculty as no policy will.”
In mid-July, Boxill was accused by the Raleigh News and Observer of a cover-up regarding information about UNC’s athletic program
Boxill told WCHL News that she was cast in a negative light by the N&O for trying to help the University’s image during tumultuous times with the NCAA, the media, and even the public. UNC faculty issued a statement supporting Boxill after the article was published.
While addressing a committee of the Board Trustees Wednesday, Boxill said that the work of the Faculty Council’s athletics focus group had been tedious, but that it was on a path toward progress.
Efforts have been on-going across campus to strengthen relationships between academics and athletics. The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes was reorganized and now reports to Dean’s office.
Earlier this month, the Rawlings Panel issued a report on the role of athletics in campus life. It was commissioned by former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp.
Boxill said that report was discussed by the Faculty Council on September 13 and will be dissected more thoroughly next month.
Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean both assumed their respective positions this summer. Boxill said this has given her a fresh perspective on Carolina’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Their visible presence and willingness to learn from all of us has presented opportunities for the faculty to find solutions to our old and new problems,” Boxill said.
Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham, Folt, and Dean together formed the Student Athlete Academic Working Group in August.
Dean said Wednesday that the three leaders were not making just a “casual effort” to improve the connection between athletics and academics
“And this group, because of the nature of the people who are on the group, is not a group that will be making recommendations,” Dean said “There is no one for us to make recommendations to. We will be making changes.”
He added that he, Folt, and Cunningham were going through “everything that has to do with student athletes with a fine-toothed comb.”http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/uncs-jan-boxill-jim-dean-talk-athleticsacademics/
CHAPEL HILL – In the wake of academic and athletic scandals, UNC is now in a unique position to turn negatives into positives and re-write the role of athletics in university life. Provost Jim Dean, UNC’s chief academic officer, in his first months in the position, said the process of examining academic support to student athletes has already begun.
Dean took over as UNC’s provost on July 1, replacing Bruce Carney, who returned to the faculty after four years in the position. Carney, and former Chancellor Holden Thorp, led the university through tumultuous times in the midst of an NCAA investigation of the University’s football program, that subsequently revealed “irregularities” in the African and Afro-American Studies Department.
“It is clear that there are some areas where we haven’t done as well as we should have, and so what we want to make sure is that we really have a very thorough, rigorous framework that we can use for everything that we are doing with student athletes,” Dean said.
As former dean of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, Dean watched as Carolina’s senior leadership dealt with the blows of the scandals. He said the controversies have been reported “thoroughly,” and as a result there may have been a misconception about how wide-reaching the academic scandals were.
“If you added up all of the things that people have talked about over the past few years, in terms of the number of people that it has touched, it is actually a really small number of people,” Dean said. “Again, I will emphasize that there’s 800 or so student athletes, and we are talking about a relative handful. If we are talking about courses, it is the same thing. If you are talking about faculty, we are talking about really, really small numbers in a university that has 30,000 students and 3,000 professors.”
Dean said in a few short months, he has forged a strong relationship with Carolina’s new batch of leaders, including Chancellor Carol Folt and Bubba Cunningham, now two years into his role as Director of Athletics. Together, the three have already begun work as the Student Athlete Academic Working Group.
“I think it is natural that when you have that many new people, we will come in and look around and say we have inherited a wonderful university, certainly one of the top universities in the country, but there’s always more that you can do and ways to make things better,” he said. “I do think that some of the problems we’ve had have inspired us to dig a little deeper and try a little harder to make sure that we are doing everything we can to live up to the standards of the university.”
Other members include Michelle Brown, who joined the University last spring as Director of the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes, and Stephen Farmer, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions. Dean said the group will also examine student athlete recruitment, admission and advising processes.
“It is important for me to say as Provost, I have a responsibility for the academic lives of all students, including all student athletes,” Dean said. “I am working closely with Bubba Cunningham as the Athletic Director, who has responsibility for the student athletes as athletes, and we have a great partnership that we are using to work together.”
Dean said the working group aims to build on recent progress made across campus in strengthening relationships between academics and athletics. Examples include the ongoing work of the Faculty Council’s Faculty Athletics Committee; the reorganization of and new leadership for the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, which now reports to Dean’s office; and the implementation of the new strategic plan in the athletics department, according to UNC’s website.
In a large scale operation such as UNC, Dean said it is impossible to control every aspect, but examining current processes is a starting place for improvement.
“Whenever you are dealing with people, you can’t really make any guarantees in any sphere of life. But really all well-run organizations have a way that they do things.”
In April, work also began on a college athletics round table discussion commissioned by Holden Thorp and led by Hunter Rawlings, President of the Association of American Universities. UNC asked the panel to make recommendations about the role of athletics in the life of a university, taking into account the recent challenges the university has faced. In ongoing discussions, the panel is covering the NCAA, presidential control, amateurism, the current context of the model for college athletics, and the role of faculty.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/top-unc-leaders-tackle-athleticacademic-relations/
CHAPEL HILL – UNC’s Faculty Executive Committee issued a statement Monday supporting Jan Boxill, the faculty chairwoman for the University. It was revealed last week that she asked colleagues to re-write segments of an academics and athletics faculty report, according to an article by The News and Observer.
UNC has felt the blow of scandals over past several years, with an NCAA investigation of the university’s football program that subsequently surfaced “irregularities” in the African and Afro-American Studies Department.
The statement of support was signed by 16 professors, including the three authors of the 2012 faculty report, Steven Bachenheimer, Michael Gerhardt and Laurie Maffly-Kipp. The statement reads: “our full support for Jan Boxill throughout her leadership as Chair of the Faculty. We have complete confidence in her judgment and integrity.”
As the elected faculty leader, Boxill is one of UNC’s top academic officers.
Emails sent by Boxill show that just before the report’s release on July 26, 2012, Boxill sent the three faculty report writers a last minute correspondence. She suggested they edit a sentence which alluded to a department manager creating made-up classes to protect athletes’ eligibility to play sports, The N & O reported. Campus emails are public record. The report authors agreed to it, and some information was left out of the final version.
Boxill told The N & O that her suggestions for edits came from other committee members.
Read the full statement below:
The Faculty Executive Committee approved the following statement at its regular meeting on Monday, July 29, 2013:
Steven Bachenheimer, Michael Gerhardt, and Laurie Maffly-Kipp (in absentia), join with the following current and former members of the UNC Faculty Executive Committee to express our full support for Jan Boxill throughout her leadership as Chair of the Faculty. We have complete confidence in her judgment and integrity.
Steven Bachenheimer (Microbiology and Immunology)
Michael Gerhardt (Law)
Laurie Maffly-Kipp (Religious Studies)
Mimi Chapman (Social Work)
Gregory P. Copenhaver (Biology)
Jean DeSaix (Biology)
Louise Dolan (Physics)
Jo Anne Earp (Public Health)
Joseph Ferrell (Secretary of the Faculty, School of Government)
Kevin Guskiewicz (Exercise and Sports Science)
Susan Irons (English and Comparative Literature)
Tim McMillan (African, African American, and Diaspora Studies)
Suchi Mohanty (University Libraries)
Leslie Parise (Biochemistry)
Shielda Rodgers (Nursing)
Vin Steponaitis (Anthropology)
CHAPEL HILL – Newly released emails show that Jan Boxill, UNC’s Faculty Council Chairman, asked colleagues to re-write segments of an academic fraud report, according to an article by The News and Observer.
Dan Kane, writer for The N & O, alleged that Boxill did this to lessen the likelihood of further NCAA investigations. As the elected faculty leader, Boxill is one of UNC’s top academic officers.
Emails sent by Boxill show that just before the report’s release on July 26, 2012, Boxill sent the three faculty report writers a last minute correspondence. She suggested they edit a sentence which alluded to a department manager creating made-up classes to protect athletes’ eligibility to play sports, Kane reported. Campus emails are public record. The report authors agreed to it, and some information was left out of the final version.
In email messages to The N & O, Boxill said she only passed along the suggestions of others and did not identify who provided them.
WCHL’s calls and an email to Boxill were not returned Sunday.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-leader-urged-re-write-of-acad-fraud-report-according-to-n-o/
CHAPEL HILL – Julius Nyang’oro, the former UNC African studies chairman and central figure of the UNC academic fraud scandal, held a close relationship with the student athlete tutoring program— according to a report Saturday by the News and Observer.
Writer Dan Kane says that members of the academic support staff offered Nyang’oro football tickets and the chance to watch a game from the sidelines. Kane says this information was obtained through newly released emails as part of a public records request filed a year ago.
Kane says that none of the details within the correspondence surfaced in the university’s investigations of the African and Afro-American Studies Department, or the NCAA investigation that resulted in the firing of UNC’s head football coach, Butch Davis, and multiple athletic department resignations—including for Athletic Director Dick Baddour.
UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp and other university officials have said the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes did not collaborate with Nyang’oro or department manager, Debbie Crowder, to create fraudulent classes to help maintain student athlete eligibility.
The university has stood by its own investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin, which concluded the fraud was not intended to benefit athletes because non-athletes were also enrolled in the classes and received the same high grades.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/n-o-close-relationship-of-former-unc-african-studies-chair-athl-counselors-revealed/