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UNC Receives Letter From Accreditation Agency

In response to Kenneth Wainstein’s report on academic irregularities, UNC’s accreditation agency has sent the school an eight-page letter asking for an update on how it’s complying with the standards required for accreditation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges sent the letter earlier this month; UNC officials released it publicly on Friday during a meeting of the Faculty Council.

Read the letter here.

Written by COC vice-president Cheryl Cardell, the letter asks UNC to address 18 separate points ranging from institutional integrity to academic support services. The COC is also asking UNC to address issues of academic freedom – namely, what standards are in place to enable faculty members and staff to raise concerns if they notice academic irregularities.

Wainstein’s report described an 18-year “scheme” of phony “paper” classes and other irregularities in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies Department (AFAM). The existence of those classes has been known for several years, and COC subjected UNC to additional oversight following the release of an earlier report on the matter. But Cardell’s letter says the COC wants an additional response now from UNC because Wainstein’s report spelled out additional details – including information about high-ranking officials outside the AFAM department who knew about the classes as well.

The letter asks for a response by January 7.


Arrest Made In UNC Bomb Threat

Additional reporting by Annick Joseph.

UNC’s Department of Public Safety has made an arrest in their investigation of the bomb scare on campus Thursday afternoon.

Police have arrested 18-year-old Daniel Berkman Fischbeck, a UNC student from Charlotte. He’s being charged with making a false bomb report in a public building, which is a felony.

The false report was issued on the social media site Yik Yak. Police officers entered Rita Balaban’s Economics 101 class in Carroll Hall at around noon, reportedly to make an arrest.

UNC journalism student Annick Joseph spoke with Rita Balaban…


…as well as Karla Garcia, a student in the class…


…Tricia Robinson, student records assistant at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication…


…Jay Eubank, director of career services at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication…


…and DPS spokesperson Randy Young.


Two UNC Deans To Step Down in 2015

Two high-profile UNC deans will be stepping down at the end of this school year.

Karen Gil, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says she will be returning to the classroom next year to teach psychology.

Gil has served as dean of the university’s largest college since 2009. She says it’s time for new leadership to help spearhead academic reform.

“There is much to do as we prepare to embark on the next capital campaign. Also, there is critical work ahead to build on the important reforms we have already put in place,” she wrote in an email to colleagues.

Jack Boger, Dean of the UNC Law School, will end his five-year term a year early. He says that will make it easier for his successor to implement curriculum reforms and handle the upcoming accreditation review by the American Bar Association.

Boger will continue to teach at the law school, where’s he’s been a member of the faculty since 1990.


Two Years Out From Controversy, Kupec Is Thriving

Two years after leaving admist controversy, former UNC vice chancellor Matt Kupec is back on his feet.

Kupec has just been named Vice President of Development and Marketing at HelpMeSee, an organization dedicated to eliminating a form of blindness caused by cataracts. He’s been busy in the last two years as well: after leaving UNC, he co-founded a startup called Text2Give, which uses mobile technology to help schools, colleges, churches and charities raise money.

Kupec stepped down from his position at UNC in 2012 after it came out that he’d spent university money on personal travel expenses. Kupec did ultimately give the money back, though – and before that, he helped UNC raise nearly $5 billion in his 18 years as vice chancellor for university advancement.

HelpMeSee is a non-profit based in New York. It specializes in training cataract specialists to perform sight-restoring surgeries for those struck blind by cataracts – an estimated 20 million people worldwide.


This Thursday, Join The “Great American Smoke-Out”

Are you a smoker who’s thinking about quitting? There’s no better day to start than Thursday.

That’s the day of the Great American Smoke-Out, a national event held every year by the American Cancer Society.

The Smoke-Out “encourages people who smoke or use tobacco to quit for 24 hours,” says Barbara Silver, the program manager for employee wellness at UNC Family Medicine and the Town of Chapel Hill. “And then if they’re successful, to quit for another 24 hours – and just do it one day at a time, as a prelude to being able to quit altogether.”

If you’re one of the 42 million Americans who smoke, and you’re looking to quit, UNC’s Nicotine Dependence Program is setting up booths around town on Thursday from 11 to 3 as part of the Great American Smoke-Out.

“We’ll have information tables at the (UNC) hospital outside of Starbucks (and) at UNC Family Medicine by the patient entrance,” Silver says. “And then CVS also has been partnering with us because they’re not selling tobacco anymore – (so) we’re going to have some pharmacy students helping us down there on Franklin Street.”

And if you can’t make it to the booths, there’s also a statewide quit line, 1-800-QUIT-NOW. You can call that number at any time – but if you call on Thursday, as part of the Great American Smoke-Out, you can receive even more support.

“If you call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, on Thursday, the Quit Line will give you eight weeks of free (nicotine) patches,” says Silver.

Silver says nicotine patches and other forms of medication can double your chances of quitting successfully.

It’s a hard road to quitting, and there may be stumbles along the way – but Silver says those stumbles are just “bumps on the road to progress.” And it is possible to quit – you just have to take it one day at a time.

Matt Englund of UNC Health Care has been smoke-free for a year.

“(I did it by) spreading out my cravings,” he says. “When you want a cigarette, you just take an extra 15 minutes and try to hold off – then try 30 minutes, then an hour, and eventually you train yourself to realize that you don’t – though you think you need it at that moment – you don’t need it at that moment…

“And work up to the moment when you can take a day. Take two days. Take a week. Do as much as you can – and keep trying until you’re successful.”

England and Silver joined Aaron Keck on WCHL this week.


The Great American Smoke-Out is held every year on the third Thursday in November. For more information, visit the American Cancer Society’s website, Cancer.org – and for more information on programs here in our area, visit the Nicotine Dependence Program’s page, NDP.UNC.edu.


Group Sues UNC, Charging Race Bias In Admissions

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

An organization called the Project on Fair Representation filed a lawsuit against UNC Monday, charging racial discrimination in its admissions policy.

The group also filed suit against Harvard University as well.

The suit against UNC cites a 2013 Supreme Court case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, in which the Court ruled that it was acceptable for colleges to pursue diversity as a goal in admissions – but also that they should pursue “race-neutral alternatives” first, and any race-conscious policy must be “narrowly tailored.”

The suits were filed Monday in Boston and Greensboro. In both cases, the plaintiff is actually a group called Students for Fair Admissions.

On Monday, Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs Rick White issued a statement in response to the lawsuit. It reads:

“The University is aware of the suit filed today by the Project on Fair Representation. The University stands by its current undergraduate admissions policy and process. Further, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights determined in 2012 that UNC-Chapel Hill’s use of race in the admissions process is consistent with federal law.

“As the University wrote in a 2012 amicus “friend of the court” brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the University continues to affirm the educational benefits diversity brings to students, as well as the importance of preparing students for a diverse society and assuring a pool of strong state leaders by admitting undergraduates from every background.”


UNC Faculty Call For More Athletics Oversight

Some UNC faculty members want to create a new committee to oversee academic decisions regarding athletes.

Four professors petitioned the Faculty Executive Committee on Monday, saying the current committee charged with that task fell far short, as evidenced by the findings of the Wainstein report.

That report identified nearly 20 years of fraudulent classes involving more than 3,100 students, many of whom were athletes.

Now, some are calling for more participation from professors in the College of Arts and Sciences, where most undergraduates and student athletes take classes.

Currently, six of the nine members of the Faculty Athletic Committee teach in the professional schools.

Proponents of the changes say they plan to draft a formal proposal to restructure the committee to include more professors who have direct contact with student athletes.

The Faculty Athletic Committee is hosting the second in a series of listening sessions on academics and athletics in the aftermath of the Wainstein report. The session is scheduled for Tuesday, November 11, from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. in the Hitchcock Room of the Sonya Haynes Stone Center. You can learn more here.



Local Melanoma Survivor Warns Students: “Respect The Rays”

A study recently published in the journal JAMA Dermatology found that 12 percent of U.S. News’ top 125 colleges have indoor tanning facilities on campus, despite the associated risk of skin cancer – and 42 percent have indoor tanning facilities offered in nearby off-campus housing.

UNC’s not among the 12 percent, according to Timna Understein, founder of a Chapel Hill-based organization called Respect the Rays. But Understein says there are tanning beds in the area – including some at housing complexes near campus – and they do cater to students.

“UNC-Chapel Hill does not have tanning facilities on campus,” Understein says. “(But) there are six (facilities) in the Chapel Hill area. None of the six let the kids use the OneCard…but they did say (they) offer student discounts.”

Understein researched tanning-bed availability in Chapel Hill. Check out her findings here.

Understein’s own personal journey – she’s received three melanoma-related diagnoses – inspired her to start Respect the Rays. She now speaks at local schools about the dangers of UV rays.

“UV radiation – whether from the sun or from a tanning bed – is classified as a human carcinogen,” she says. “Which means that an exposure to it can lead to cancer.

“So if you think about it in those terms, there really is no safe way (to tan).”

Understein joined Aaron Keck on WCHL last week.


Though there are no indoor tanning facilities on campus, Understein still says that UNC college students are at risk.

“People who first use tanning beds before the age of 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent,” she says. “(That’s) a statistic that’s pretty scary.”


UNC Info Project Now Fighting Ebola In Africa

After its founding 14 years ago, the WiderNet Project’s eGranary Digital Library has served more than 48 countries at more than 900 locations.

And now, the WiderNet Project has created an Ebola Emergency Response Library initiative to combat the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

The eGranary Digital Library was developed as a low-cost information technology alternative that is an off-line collection of more than 32 million digital resources that serves the world’s poor. On Nov. 13, the WiderNet Project is launching version 1.0 of the Ebola Response Library, which will include resources to stop the spread of the disease.

“We’re gathering as much information from CDC, WHO, all these other organizations, and we’re going to distribute all of that on a little chip,” says UNC Clinical Associate Professor (and WiderNet founder) Cliff Missen. “Somebody who has this little chip can put it in a smart phone (or) a laptop – and most importantly, they can copy it.

“We want that information to be spread faster than the disease.”

Cliff Missen. (Photo via WiderNet.org.)

Cliff Missen. (Photo via WiderNet.org.)

Missen was inspired to create the WiderNet Project in 2000 during his teaching stint as a Fulbright Scholar in Nigeria. Missen says he admires the healthcare workers that are fighting Ebola and wants to help as much as possible.

Missen says he travels to Africa and India two to three times a year for training.

“It’s amazing,” Missen says. “People click buttons and they’re seeing this information and they’re looking at me and asking, ‘Is this legal? Can I have this?’

“It’s like they almost get drunk with so much information – and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.”


McAdoo Sues UNC Over Wainstein Report

As the fallout continues from the Wainstein report, former UNC football player Michael McAdoo has filed a class-action lawsuit against the university.

The lawsuit says UNC denied McAdoo a quality education by steering him into fraudulent classes in the African and Afro-American Studies Department.

McAdoo was one of the football players declared ineligible back in 2010 for receiving improper benefits, including improper assistance on papers. He filed suit against the school then as well, to restore his eligibility – and it was that suit that led to the discovery of the AFAM scandal, when bloggers on an NC State site noticed that McAdoo had plagiarized one of the school papers he’d submitted as evidence to the court.

The current lawsuit was filed in Charlotte last week.

More than 3,000 students – about half of them athletes – took those bogus “paper” classes in the AFAM department during the 1990s and 2000s. The N&O reports that the players on the NCAA-champion 2005 basketball team – which included many AFAM majors – took a combined total of 35 “paper” classes during the 2004-05 academic year alone.