Earth to Art Chansky: It Wasn’t About the Women

Editor’s note: Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook on July 14th was about UNC Coach Sylvia Hatchell. Chansky followed with a longer Art’s Angle on the subject of Coach Hatchell on July 15th. The commentary below is from Mary Willingham and Jay Smith of, and was published to their blog on July 16th, but only in response to the July 14th Sports Notebook. On July 20th, Art Chansky shared his answer to their blog post in a Sports Notebook. Mary Willingham’s commentary can be heard on WCHL in an abbreviated version on July 21st. Below is the full version.

In a recent commentary on WCHL, ardent UNC sports fan Art Chansky revealed his strategy for combating the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations [NOA] against the university’s athletic program: Blame it on the women! Complaining of women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell’s (alleged) behind-the-scenes efforts to lobby for a contract extension comparable to the one recently offered men’s coach Roy Williams, Chansky griped that “an exit strategy should be [Hatchell’s’] play.” After all, Chansky claimed, “Hatchell’s program is in the most serious trouble from the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations,” given the high profile of women’s academic counselor Jan Boxill in the email documentation provided in the NCAA report. The whole NCAA investigation is a “witch hunt” with many victims, Chansky suggested, but the uncomfortable reality for women’s basketball is that “[Roy] Williams’ program was not cited in the NOA and Hatchell’s was.” Hatchell should therefore prepare herself to leave UNC “with grace.”

The propaganda purposes of this particular commentary are obvious even by Chansky’s standards. No team is “cited” in the NOA if by cited one means singled out for likely punishment. As a team and as a program, women’s basketball is cited in the NCAA document no more and no less than any other team or program. (The NCAA’s NOA did note, however, that the “special arrangements” used for eligibility purposes at UNC had particularly benefited “the sports of football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball.”) Chansky, in other words, is only continuing and amplifying the PR drumbeat that Roy Williams, Larry Fedora and others began some weeks ago, presumably at the urging of university lawyers. They have repeatedly announced that the big-time men’s revenue sports would seem to be in the clear and should expect no further punishment from the NCAA. They would have us believe that the NCAA is prepared to give football and men’s basketball a free pass even after the exposure of decades’ worth of fraud that clearly benefited the football and men’s basketball teams. And they are evidently all too happy to point the finger of blame in the direction of a women’s team in order to lower expectations about the sanctions likely to be imposed on the men’s teams.

Leaving aside the gender politics of this shameless PR strategy–will advocates for women’s sports stand by while male coaches, boosters, and UNC insiders labor to persuade the NCAA that the Crowder-Nyang’oro scheme was merely a big plot to help women?–Chansky and company face one very high hurdle in pursuit of their propaganda campaign. A mountain of direct and circumstantial evidence makes clear that UNC’s distinctive pattern of academic fraud was developed specifically to meet the needs of the men’s basketball team, and that the corruption reached its highest levels on Roy Williams’s watch. The first suspect independent study courses offered by Julius Nyang’oro in the late 1980s were offered to men’s basketball players, some of whom had abysmal SAT scores and perilously low GPA’s before they met professor Nyang’oro. Faculty friends in geography, French, and the school of education had been very helpful to the team throughout the 1980s. But when leadership of the AFRI/AFAM department fell into the laps of two allies of men’s basketball around 1990–Nyang’oro and his assistant Debby Crowder, whose close friend Burgess McSwain served as academic counselor for the men in her remote Smith center office–that department quickly became the go-to academic center for struggling (or academically uninterested) men’s basketball players. The fraud would morph into a multi-team and three thousand-student debacle before all was said and done, but men’s basketball was always first in line for favors and fake classes. The needs of men’s basketball always came first in the eyes of Debby Crowder. And the 2005 men’s team, whose roster was stocked with players for whom both McSwain and Crowder felt great sympathy, benefited from unprecedented levels of favoritism. The team as a whole took well over one hundred paper classes; as one would expect, the starters on that team benefited disproportionately from the scam. Star forward Rashad McCants has had the guts to admit this publicly and to show the evidence of the fraud in his own student transcript. His teammates, though quick to denounce him, have kept their transcripts hidden. It is unlikely that anyone else from that team–Sean May, Raymond Felton, Jawad Williams, Marvin Williams, Reyshawn Terry, Jesse Holley, etc.–will ever step forward with transcripts in hand to have a frank conversation about their classroom experiences. But the truth is in those transcripts.

Chansky, Williams, and the friends of men’s basketball would have the world believe that twenty years of bogus class scheduling was done without the knowledge of anyone actually connected to the men’s basketball program. Coaches (who are paid millions to know everything) supposedly knew nothing. The only academic counselor who was knowingly, inexcusably corrupt, they say, was philosophy instructor Jan Boxill, counselor for the women’s basketball team. This “powerful” figure, they say, corrupted women’s basketball of her own volition. Thankfully, all other counselors were innocent–even if it is unfortunate that they failed to detect the shenanigans of Crowder and Boxill.

The layers of absurdity in this line of argument become hard to distinguish. One might start, however, with the simple fact that Jan Boxill, whatever her flaws, was far more vulnerable than powerful. She was an untenured instructor whose employment at UNC was always partially contingent on her services to the athletic program. She was a highly valuable cog in the machine because of her go-between status and her ability to negotiate academic protocols for counselors who were physically segregated from the main arteries of the campus. But her great value also increased her vulnerability. She was pressured constantly by other personnel in the Academic Support Program to call in favors, to make phone calls, to ask for benefits that were “needed” by athletes with low GPA’s, travel commitments, or other handicaps.

Among the people who leaned heavily on Jan Boxill were the counselors for men’s basketball–first McSwain and then Wayne Walden, Roy Williams’s handpicked deputy who followed him to Chapel Hill from Kansas in 2003. When Roy Williams touts Walden’s ethics, he is not just blowing smoke. Walden was a decent guy who worked within a system that had been built long before he arrived. (Where is he now? Why won’t he and the other counselors step forward to tell their stories?) Walden had a conscience, and he was not happy to have to resort to “paper classes” and wink-wink independent studies courses to help keep certain players afloat. But he also knew what had to be done when push came to shove. Mary Willingham and Wayne Walden spent countless hours together in the old east end zone building talking about how difficult it was to keep challenged players eligible, and how much harder it was to navigate the UNC curriculum in comparison to the Kansas curriculum. (Thank the heavens for Debby Crowder and the few friendly faculty out there…) The course selection process they managed was never about offering players a world-class education; Willingham and Walden worked together–quite often with Boxill’s help, even more often with Crowder’s help–to keep basketball players eligible and in school. They were quite good at it, though Walden was constantly worried about getting Jan or Debby in trouble by asking for favors that would raise red flags. (One reason Boxill had so many emails to be plundered by Kenneth Wainstein and the NCAA: she worked in an office in Caldwell Hall, distant from the ASPSA. Deals, trouble-shooting, and schedule-engineering that were done face-to-face in the ASPSA had to be done through email whenever Boxill was involved. Conveniently for certain other key players in the drama, Boxill’s email was on the main UNC server rather than on the athletic server; her emails could not be expunged.)

Roy Williams has tried to take credit for steering players away from AFAM in 2006-7 (even as he disavows any knowledge of funny business in that department.) But the fact is, the transcripts of the 2009 national championship men’s team look different–with some but far fewer paper classes–only because a new fear of getting caught had set in around 2006. Remember the Auburn scandal and the panic it seems to have caused among ASPSA officials, the Faculty Athletics Committee, and Dean Bobbi Owen (who decreed that the numbers of AFAM independent studies had to be sharply reduced)? The upshot of the Auburn scandal, in the UNC men’s basketball program, was a new caution about cheating. The large-scale, team-wide stuff had to end. Paper classes, Walden decided, should be used only for the athletes who desperately needed them – such as the one guy who “couldn’t read very well.” That particular player, whose needs forged a particularly close relationship between Walden and Willingham (a reading specialist), took between ten and twelve paper classes. That figure–compiled in the years after Roy Williams claims that he cleaned up the basketball program–is significantly higher than the number of paper classes ever taken by ANY women’s basketball player. The number of AFAM majors on the men’s basketball team may have dropped off after 2005, but the need for paper classes remained (for both current and former players), and men’s basketball stayed at the front of the line at least through 2008.

Art Chansky and company are desperately trying to persuade the NCAA and the public at large that UNC’s course fraud scam was all about helping the women’s basketball team. Chansky urges Sylvia Hatchell to play sacrificial lamb for a UNC athletic department that benefited broadly and egregiously from academic fraud that unfolded over twenty years. The NCAA has all the emails, with all the unredacted names, and so one can assume that the Committee on Infractions will be able to hold up against the propaganda winds. But regardless of what the NCAA does or does not do, people of good conscience in and around UNC must not allow the dreams of Chansky, Williams, and Fedora to come true. Collective amnesia is not an option in Chapel Hill. Owning the reality of the scandal is important because only after accepting the true dynamic of the academic-athletic scandal–only after Tar Heels have come to terms with the fact that our love of men’s basketball and our passionate commitment to winning fostered an uncontrollably corrupt academic environment here–will the institution be able to move on with open eyes, a clean conscience, and a healthy plan for the future.

Chansky asks Hatchell to leave with “grace.” But grace has never been about willful blindness, nor should it be about taking one for the team. “Was blind but now I see,” goes the beloved lyric. Those touched by grace are not asked to go into exile; they are reconciled to a higher power and beckoned to a welcoming place (“grace will lead me home.”). Asking Sylvia Hatchell to go away is not the answer to UNC’s disgrace. The institution should instead be asking for its own gift of grace—the gift of clear-sighted reconciliation with the sins of its past.

Art’s Angle: Does Honor Absolve Smith?

The U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) will be bestowing an annual award that honors the late Dean Smith given “to an individual in college basketball who embodies the spirit and values represented by Smith,” according to the official release Wednesday.

What a marvelous idea, akin to what has been proposed by various people since Smith retired in 1997. UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham told Media Relations Director Steve Kirschner two years ago that such an award should be initiated. Sports Information Director Emeritus Rick Brewer, perhaps the closest person to Smith outside his personal and basketball families, suggested it to sportswriter and former USBWA president John Feinstein at the 2015 ACC Tournament.

When brought up at the organization’s next meeting, it passed “in 30 seconds,” according to current President Pat Forde, who with Feinstein and columnist Dana O’Neil were in Chapel Hill Wednesday to make the announcement. The USBWA has since worked with Kirschner, Cunningham and the Smith family to frame out the parameters of the award that can go to a coach, non-coach, presumably a former player, “both male and female, from all divisions of the NCAA and NAIA.”

There was a lot of joy and sincere sentiment at the press conference, also attended by Smith’s widow Linnea and son Scott. There was also a touch of hypocrisy.

Apparently, any writer with a regular column in print or on-line who pays dues can join the USBWA, which has had hundreds of members since being  founded in 1956 and names an All-American Team each year and also gives out annual national awards for Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Courage.

The USBWA has no control over what its members write, and many of them have had UNC in their gun sights for years over the academic scandal. Some have refused to believe the scandal is an aberration of what was long hailed as a model athletic program, the problem started in the old African American Studies (AFAM) department and was taken advantage of by a relatively small percentage of Tar Heel athletes over an 18-year span.

Forde has been one of Carolina’s harshest critics, banging out columns with sweeping accusations and indictments, suggesting that UNC might before due process self-impose penalties like vacating a national title. He was the headline subject of one Tar Heel blog entitled, Pat Forde Can’t Stop Talking About North Carolina’s Academic Scandal. In that piece, Forde said of Marcus Paige, the Academic Player of the Year in college basketball:

“And the brainiac junior also is tasked with being the erudite face of a program that has become a national laughingstock because of an 18-year academic scandal that undercut the school’s previously strong reputation.”

At the time of Forde’s quote, “an 18-year scandal” went back to 1996-97, when Smith was still coaching the Tar Heels. So Forde was asked if getting behind the Dean Smith Award somehow exonerates the Hall of Fame coach from any involvement in the eyes of the USBWA.

“This is independent from the scandal,” Forde said. “It is everything Dean did away from basketball.”

Asked again if this particular honor absolves Smith and we may never see his name mentioned in another story about the scandal (after this one), Forde said, “We wouldn’t put Dean Smith’s name on an award if we did not feel his character deserved it.”

Frankly, the rush to judgment from the ABC posters is to be expected. But from an organization of the best basketball writers in the world, well, that speaks to the sometimes unhealthy competition of the 24-hour news cycle. And it isn’t likely to stop whether the NCAA throws the Tar Heels in jail or says it’s “all good” and let’s P.J. Hairston come back and play his last two years. Either way, the reactions will be strong.

What the scribes say about Carolina Basketball, good and bad, will always go back to Dean Smith because he took a team in rubbles when no one else wanted the job and created a paradigm that every other program in the country, including Duke, sought to emulate. And now it is coached by one of his deepest disciples, a man who credits everything he knows about life and college basketball to his mentor.

So while UNC and the Smith family should be thrilled about this off-the-court recognition, and its charitable association with their Opening Doors Fund, I am happy it is another step in restoring a reputation that Dean Smith helped build.

In The Latest UNC Scandal, It’s Not About Admissions

Pop quiz!

When it comes to literacy and UNC athletes, who’s got their facts right: Mary Willingham or Steve Farmer?

A.    Mary Willingham
B.    Steve Farmer
C.    Both
D.    Neither
E.    Both C and D
F.    I don’t know, but good Lord, Holden Thorp must be thanking his lucky stars right now

Time’s up! The correct answer is (E).

“Both and neither,” I hear you asking? Yep. And I think the real truth is even more complicated than that.

Let me try to explain.

First, a recap. Last week, CNN reported that universities across the nation were admitting student-athletes (football and basketball players, mostly) who were shockingly underprepared for college, some even to the point of being functionally illiterate. The scope of CNN’s piece went far beyond UNC, but the report centered on Mary Willingham, an academic advisor and former tutor at UNC who had some pretty damning numbers.

Here’s the key stat: Willingham said she studied 183 student-athletes admitted to Carolina between 2004 and 2012, and found that 60 percent of them read at between a fourth-grade and an eighth-grade level. Another 10 percent read at a third-grade level or below.

UNC officials immediately struck back. “We do not believe that claim and find it patently unfair,” said the university in a statement. “I can tell you, we do not admit students who we believe cannot read or write,” said undergraduate admissions director Steve Farmer. Roy Williams even got teary-eyed in a press conference. But no numbers to counter Willingham’s, at least not right away.

Then on Thursday, the numbers came in.

From UNC’s statement: “Between 2004 and 2012, the same time period examined by CNN, UNC-Chapel Hill enrolled 1,377 first-year student-athletes through the special-talent policies and procedures. More than 97 percent (1,338) of those students met the CNN threshold (for college-level literacy)…Of the student-athletes who enrolled between 2004 and 2012 under the special-talent policies, 341 were recruited for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. More than 90 percent (307) of these students met the CNN threshold.”

“The CNN threshold,” by the way—a weird phrase that I think UNC just now invented—refers to the level cited in the CNN report as a measure of college-level literacy: a 400 on the SAT verbal exam or a 16 on the ACT. What UNC is saying here is that more than 90 percent of the football and basketball players who entered Carolina during that eight-year period topped either or both of those scores. (Which means a full ten percent didn’t, but that’s another story.)

So. There are the numbers. Willingham’s on the one side, and Farmer’s on the other.

Who’s right?

Here’s the thing: Willingham and Farmer are technically measuring different things, so the truth is that both sides could be right. Farmer believes otherwise—“I think these numbers are wildly incompatible,” he told WCHL Thursday—but it’s entirely feasible for someone to score a 400 on the SAT without being able to read at an eighth-grade level. (Farmer wasn’t able to say exactly how high those athletes scored, only that they topped the minimum “CNN threshold” of 400 SAT/16 ACT. How much did they top it by? No idea.) We don’t have Willingham’s research in front of us to be able to verify it independently—so we can’t say for sure—but unless there was something dramatically wrong with her methodology, there’s no real reason to disbelieve her.

So where does that leave us?

Should we be upset? What should we be upset about? And why? And what should be done?

Well, that’s where it gets a little more complicated—because the real issues here, and the real culprits, lie way beyond the scope of this current debate. That’s what I mean when I say Willingham and Farmer’s numbers are both right and wrong.

A couple things.

First: UNC’s getting singled out here because Willingham is front and center in the CNN report, but it’s important to recognize that this is not, specifically, a UNC problem. It’s a college athletics problem, writ large. This is, I guarantee you, happening everywhere: wherever there’s a major Division I program, you’re going to find students being admitted who can barely read or write. (The CNN report says as much, as does Willingham’s master’s thesis.)

It’s also worth noting that all of this is well within NCAA guidelines. The NCAA requires only that student-athletes earn a 700 on their SATs—that’s a 350 average on the math and verbal portions, well below the “CNN threshold” of 400, and a student can even get admitted with a lower score if they have a high enough GPA (and any self-respecting high school can figure out how to inflate that). Which is to say that the NCAA doesn’t even try to require that its student-athletes be literate. That’s kind of a problem too.

In that context, is it really so shocking to hear that a sizable percentage of college athletes have a hard time cutting the mustard academically? (I haven’t even mentioned the pervasive influence of money, yet another big-time source of pressure on universities to admit student-athletes who struggle in the classroom.) How bad is it? Forget the low bar—look at the high bar. In men’s basketball, a GPA of 3.30 is good enough to qualify you as an Academic All-American. That’s a B-plus average. Average a B-plus in your classes (with grade inflation!), and you’ll rank among the best in the entire frickin’ country.

Not to knock a B-plus, but that’s kinda sad, people.

And it goes even deeper.

Because—although it’s not obvious—we also ought to recognize this as an indictment of K-12 education in general.

There have been a couple N&O articles about Mary Willingham in the last week. In one of them, the opening line jumped out at me: “As a reading specialist at UNC-Chapel Hill, Mary Willingham met athletes who told her they had never read a book and didn’t know what a paragraph was.”

My first thought? “Oh yeah. I’ve been there.”

You might know that I too have an academic background, including seven years in grad school at Rutgers University in New Jersey. At Rutgers, I paid part of my way by teaching English 101, Expository Writing, the one course that all Rutgers students are absolutely required to take and pass. Since it’s a universal requirement, you get quite a diverse cross-section of students.

Some of them were terrific. Some of them were atrocious.

And since the goal of Expos 101 is to teach incoming freshmen how to write a college-level essay, I can tell you, from direct personal experience, in no uncertain terms: yes, yes, a thousand times yes, there are lots and lots of first-year college students who don’t know what a paragraph is. Lots and lots of college students who’ve never read a book. Lots and lots of college students who can’t grasp the meaning of a piece of writing, can’t formulate a thesis statement, and can’t understand how to use evidence to support an argument when they do come up with one. (We teachers used to sit around wondering what level of troglodyte you’d have to be to apply to Rutgers and actually get turned down. We finally got our answer when “Jersey Shore” came out.)

And I’m not talking about athletes here.

I’m talking about the general population. Regular students. The ones who met all the standard admissions criteria and didn’t require a “special admit” to get in.

This is how it’s come to be in K-12 education, in a lot of places. It is possible for students to graduate from high school without ever having to write an essay or read anything of any real substance. The push for more and more emphasis on STEM classes (and therefore less and less on reading, writing, and critical thinking) is only making matters worse.

It is out of this system that admissions directors like Steve Farmer are getting their applicants. I don’t envy them one bit. (Carolina tends to get a higher class of applicants, but still.)

And if it’s that bad among incoming college students in general, it only stands to reason that it’s even worse among incoming student-athletes—many of whom are receiving those “special admits” because they can’t even meet those standards.

So when I hear Mary Willingham say 60 percent of incoming student-athletes at UNC can’t read beyond an eighth-grade level—no, I’m not surprised. I can’t confirm those numbers, I don’t have the raw data in front of me, I suppose it’s possible she could be wrong—but no, I’m not surprised. The numbers UNC released Thursday really don’t change a thing for me. I believe they’re accurate, and I believe UNC admitted each and every one of those students with the best of intentions…but I also believe Mary Willingham. I think she’s on to something, at least.

But all of that—all of that—ALL of that—is actually beside the point. Pretty much everything that’s been said around this issue, all week long, has been one red herring after another.

The real question, the one that matters, is this:

Once we admit those students to UNC, are we providing them with a quality education? Are we doing right by them academically while they’re here?

That’s what it comes down to, really. I’m not a fan of “special admits” myself (feels a bit like the tail wagging the dog), but if UNC can bring in someone who’s virtually incapable of reading or writing, and in four years bring that person up to a level of literacy they’d otherwise never even be able to dream of reaching—well, bully for UNC, then! That would be a good thing, not a bad thing.

That was, after all, the purpose of Expos 101, up at Rutgers. Still is, in fact. They take kids who have no business being in college, put them through a reading/writing/critical thinking boot camp, run them through the wringer for a semester, and turn them into real College Students. (Most of them, anyway.)

This is also why college athletics departments—the good ones, that is—are so rigorous about making sure their student-athletes attend their classes, keep up with their schoolwork, and seek help when they need it. For every horror story about “no-show” classes or grades being changed behind professors’ backs, there’s a story about compliance officers peeking into classrooms to make sure the kids are there, or coaches benching their best players for missing a test right before their biggest game of the year. (Hey, Tom Izzo.)

This is what we want. Regardless of the quality of the student when they enter the university, what matters is that they be a high-quality scholar when they leave it.

This is a point Jan Boxill often makes, when talking about the value of college athletics. (She’s the director of the Parr Ethics Center as well as a college sports expert, so she ought to know.) It’s also a point that Willingham makes in her master’s thesis; in fact much of her argument about admissions criteria rests on the assertion that there’s a level of literacy below which you just can’t expect a student to make it in college under any circumstances. “I am prepared to grant that there are benefits to a student-athlete’s college attendance, but ultimately, admitting under prepared students constitutes deceit and is immoral,” she writes on pages 10-11. “In admitting underprepared students, the university and the coaches are setting them up for failure.” (She may be right, but that question requires a whole other debate.)

So. Is UNC measuring up?

Obviously it wasn’t doing such a great job before all the scandals broke. (Willingham’s most damning allegation actually has nothing to do with admissions—it’s her charge that people in the academic support program were fully aware that cheating was rampant and classes were fraudulent, and let it all slide. That’s the smoking gun we haven’t seen yet.)

Is it doing better now? As a whole, probably yes, if only because the heat is on. There are reforms in place, actions being taken. Even the undergraduate admissions numbers are improving, as Farmer’s statistics indicate: all 154 of the “special-admit” athletes who entered UNC last fall met the “CNN threshold” of 400 SAT/16 ACT.

That question—“is UNC measuring up?”—is a question that’s going to take a lot of time, and a lot of oversight, to answer. It’s a question that’s never going to go away. It’s a question that never ought to go away.

But let us be clear, when we think about the Willingham saga and talk about those numbers: that is the real question at stake here. Is our university, and our athletic department, really committed to providing a high-quality education to student-athletes? Does our academic support center have its priorities straight? Is there oversight? When student-athletes leave Carolina, do they leave it as scholars, critical thinkers, citizens? Or is their “degree” just a phony piece of paper?

Or to put it another way: the current debate aside, it’s not about what comes in—it’s about what goes out.

Last things first.

UNC’s Jan Boxill & Jim Dean Talk Athletics/Academics

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.

Photo by Dan Sears

Photo by Dan Sears

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.”

UNC Provost-elect Jim Dean

UNC Provost-elect Jim Dean

He added that he, Folt, and Cunningham were going through “everything that has to do with student athletes with a fine-toothed comb.”