UNC Fraud Report To Be Released Wednesday

UNC’s Wainstein Report On Academic Fraud Due Wednesday

The long-awaited report on academic fraud at UNC is scheduled to be released on Wednesday.

A group of investigators led by attorney Kenneth Wainstein has been working for nearly a year to dig into allegations of fraudulent classes with disproportionately high enrollment by college athletes.

The findings will be presented to a special joint meeting of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees. A press conference will take place at 1:00 p.m. in the first floor of the Kenan Center, located by the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

UNC President Tom Ross and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt will join Wainstein to respond and announce their initial actions based on the report. They will also take questions from the media.

Once it has been released, Wainstein’s report will be available online:  carolinacommitment.unc.edu

After the press conference, Chancellor Folt will host a town hall meeting with faculty, staff and students to discuss the findings. That takes place from 5 to 6 p.m. in room G200 of the Genome Sciences Building.

UNC officials on Monday released the following statement about the report:

“Since February 2014, former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein and his team have rigorously sought to address questions left unanswered during previous University-commissioned reviews of academic irregularities at UNC-Chapel Hill. Mr. Wainstein interviewed hundreds of individuals, including current and former faculty members, athletics department staff, academic advisors, academic counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes, administrators and students, including student-athletes. He has collected and searched millions of emails and analyzed student records, including transcripts, of thousands of students going back to the 1980s.

“On Wednesday Mr. Wainstein will publicly release the findings of his inquiry. Carolina believes this investigation provides the only way to truly understand and address what went wrong. We have a responsibility to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and University community at large to ensure we have a complete assessment of what transpired. Since first learning about these irregularities, Carolina has not stood still. We have taken actions and implemented initiatives to ensure proper oversight and support is provided across the University. The findings in Mr. Wainstein’s report will be used to further strengthen processes and policies to ensure nothing like this can happen again at Carolina.”

In an online message to the community, Chancellor Folt wrote, in part:

“The last few years have been difficult for our community. I believe this report will allow us to have a complete picture of what happened at Carolina and build on the numerous reforms we have already put in place.

I understand that many of you have questions, and I hope that many will be answered on Wednesday. We will continue to keep you informed as we move forward.”

You can read her full statement here: http://unc.edu/campus-updates/message-from-chancellor-carol-l-folt-5/


UNC Study: In Birds, As In Humans, Beauty Is Relative

It’s a well-known fact that when it comes to the dating scene, you don’t really have to be attractive – you just have to be more attractive than the competition.

And as it turns out, that’s a measurable biological phenomenon.

“If males view images of really attractive faces, they find (an average) face less attractive than if they first viewed images of unattractive faces,” says Susan Lyons, a Ph.D. candidate in biology at UNC.

What she’s describing is called the “contrast effect,” and it’s not just true for humans. Working with her advisor, biology professor Keith Sockman, Lyons has discovered a similar “contrast effect” in sparrows. (Lincoln’s sparrows, to be precise.)

Humans attract each other physically (for the most part), but songbirds like sparrows attract their mates with the quality of their songs – specifically, a characteristic known as trill performance, or “a measurement of how quickly the syllables of a trill can be produced.” Lyons says sparrows likely react to trill performance because it’s an indication of a bird’s skill or vigor; female birds are more attracted to males with higher-quality songs.

But the operative word there is “higher” quality – because as Sockman discovered, the level of trill performance can vary from year to year. Some years, the males will sing extremely well – and other years, the pickings are slim.

“This would suggest that females, in some years when the song performance levels are low, might not find a mate – unless they could adjust the criteria that they use for deciding a song is good enough,” Sockman says.

And so, Lyons began an experiment to determine: will female sparrows react differently to the same song, based solely on the quality of the other songs they hear?

“We exposed females to one week of either more attractive songs or less attractive songs,” Lyons says, “and then at the end of the week, we asked the females to assess the attractiveness for a (new) song that was of intermediate trill performance.”

And as it turns out, the difference makes a difference.

“Females that were previously exposed to the low-performance ‘unattractive’ songs were more attracted to the intermediate song,” Lyons says.

Lyons and Sockman have just published that discovery in the October 15 issue of the journal Biology Letters. (It will also be the first chapter in Lyons’ dissertation.) They say it’s not an unexpected finding, especially given what Sockman observed before – but it is the first time the “contrast effect” has ever been observed in a performance-based sexual signal.

All of which is to say: in the world of sparrows, just as in the world of humans, it’s often important to have a wingman.


UNC: Health Benefits For Same-Sex Spouses

Following a court ruling last week, the state of North Carolina has begun recognizing same-sex marriages – and as a consequence, state employees (including UNC employees) will now be able to enroll same-sex spouses in the State Health Plan.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt made that announcement Tuesday along with Felicia Washington, the Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity, and Engagement.

Their statement is below.

Dear Carolina Community,

On Friday, Judge Max Cogburn, Jr., a United States District Court Judge for the Western District of North Carolina, entered an order ruling that North Carolina’s law prohibiting same-sex marriages is unconstitutional as a matter of law. This is, indeed, a historic ruling in our state.

We are pleased to share with you that earlier today, the State Health Plan and NCFlex informed us that employees can immediately begin to enroll same-sex spouses. Coverage can become effective as early as November 1, 2014, for same-sex marriages performed prior to October 13, 2014. This applies to marriages performed in North Carolina, as well as same-sex marriages lawfully solemnized outside of North Carolina. Same-sex marriages performed after this date would be treated as qualifying events, just as with opposite-sex marriages.

To view the State Health Plan’s official announcement regarding coverage, click here.

Instructions to complete the enrollment of a same-sex spouse are available at http://hr.unc.edu/?p=20974.

We will continue to communicate any important updates relating to this late-breaking news. Likewise, we will inform you of any instructions we receive from the Office of State Human Resources, the State Health Plan and NCFlex related to any policy changes…


Carol L. Folt, Chancellor
Felicia A. Washington, Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity,
and Engagement


UNC Gets $3 Million To Help Students Graduate

A $3 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education will go to help first-generation students at UNC make it all the way to graduation.

Abigail Panter is a psychology professor and the senior associate dean for undergraduate education at UNC. Over the next four years she will develop a program to help improve undergraduate retention as part of a national push to increase the number of college graduates.

Called The Finish Line Project, the program will be aimed at the nearly 20 percent of UNC undergraduates who are the first in their families to attend college. Many come from rural areas or traditionally underserved populations. These students are about twice as likely to drop out of college after the first year.

The program will include intensive academic counseling and targeted transition courses to help new students adjust to the rigors of college. It will also examine curriculum design for STEM classes at the community college and university levels.

The grant is one of 24 awarded by the Department of Education to fund the First in the World initiative to improve access to higher education and raise college graduation rates across the country.


UNC Gathers Second-Highest Research Funding Total

UNC secured nearly $793 million in research contracts and grants in the 2014 fiscal year, an increase of $215 million since 2004.

Chancellor Carol Folt made the announcement Thursday during a meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The University received almost 72 percent of its $792.7 million from the federal government. Some of the biggest federal contributors include the National Institutes of Health, which contributed $428 million, and the National Science Foundation, which contributed $37.4 million.

Scientific teams from research centers and institutes at the University won $141.5 million funding in FY14 to study things like malaria, HIV, autism and alternative fuel methods.

The research awards from FY14 are only surpassed by those from the FY10. The University received $803 million that year. Almost $126 million were from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009. The Act aimed to save jobs and promote economic growth. This year, only $3.5 million were part of that economic stimulus plan.


UNC Per-Athlete Spending Lower Than ACC Median

Additional reporting by Zach Mayo

UNC is spending more on athletics than the median average within the Atlantic Coast Conference, but athletic director Bubba Cunningham says that’s due to the commitment to giving more student-athletes the opportunity to play college sport.

“We want to provide a great experience for our student-athletes,” Cunningham says. “If you look at the finances within the ACC, we’re about in the middle. But, the one thing I’m really proud of is we have more sports than anybody, except Boston College, but we offer more scholarships. What we’re about is trying to create a broad-base program and give kids the opportunity to participate in sport. Carolina’s been very effective in doing that.”

According to data presented to the UNC Board of Trustees Wednesday, UNC spent $83 million on athletics last year. The median of the ACC was $128,576 per athlete while UNC spent $104,464 per athlete. Carolina currently has 26 men’s and women’s athletic programs.


UNC ‘Focused On Student-Athletes’, All Students’ Success’

Story by Zach Mayo

UNC Provost Jim Dean gave a detailed report on athletics at the University to the Board of Trustees Wednesday afternoon.

The Provost offered a broad look at how student athletes are performing in the classroom, saying the University is on par with other ACC schools in terms of graduation rate and grade point average. Still, efforts are being made to bridge the gap between GPAs of athletes and non-athletes.

“We’re doing a number of things to try and make sure we’re providing as much help as we can to student athletes in terms of being successful, but at the same time we’re providing additional help to students who are not athletes,” Provost Dean said. “So, I’m not sure if that’s going to bring them together or not, because we may be raising the bar for everybody.”

Dean’s report comes as Kenneth Wainstein’s independent investigation on academic irregularities on campus is expected later in the Fall. Dean does not have a more specific timetable for its release.

STORY: Wainstein: ‘Don’t Have Findings Yet’

Athletes had a 2.95 GPA in Spring 2014 compared with the 3.2 GPA of all undergraduates.


Alert Carolina: Strong Arm Robbery On Campus

Alert Carolina has issued a warning to the campus community about a reported strong-arm robbery that occurred this morning at the Nash Lot near the Carolina Inn.
The statement from Alert Carolina follows:
Campus police are responding to a strong arm robbery that does NOT pose an immediate threat to health or safety. At around 2:25 a.m., 3 male suspects reportedly committed strong arm robbery at Nash Lot. Two suspects were described as black males, with the third of unknown race. Main suspect is approximately 6 feet in height, with a short afro and wearing blue jeans and no shirt. No weapons were seen and suspects were traveling in unknown direction. The situation may pose a continuing danger to the campus community and this notice is intended to enable people to protect themselves and/or their property.
The University advises students, faculty and staff to see alertcarolina.unc.edu, for updates. Campus police ask anyone seeing suspicious activity to call 911. Do not call 911 or campus police to ask for information about the current situation.

UNC System Reviewing Centers’ And Institutes’ Functionality

Additional reporting by Danny Hooley

The UNC Board of Governors plans to review more than 200 centers and institutes in the UNC system, with the possibility of redirecting state funding elsewhere, in some cases.

The Board of Governors recently formed a review committee to check on the 237 centers and institutes, after the state legislature recommended as much as $15 million in reductions to research centers, speaker series, or other non-academic areas.

The committee’s leader, BoG member James Holmes, Jr., told the News and Observer that the group seeks to review and understand the centers, to determine whether they continue to “fit the school’s mission.”

He also told the N&O that most of the centers and institutions won’t see any cuts, adding: “There’s no mandate to get any dollars.”

UNC-Chapel Hill stands to lose the most if cuts are made. Eighty of the 237 centers and institutions across the system are within the flagship university; N.C. State houses 48.

Cuts would likely reduce the federal and other outside sources of funding. Last year, $556 million was collected.

WCHL requested a comment from UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean, but neither was available on Friday.


Report Of Alleged Assault At Aloft Surfaces

An incomplete report has surfaced of an alleged assault at the Aloft Hotel around the time a UNC football player alleges he was assaulted resulting in a concussion, but no new details have emerged.

UNC is currently investigating an incident that was first reported by Yahoo! Sports. That story says walk-on redshirt freshman wide receiver Jackson Boyer said a number of his teammates physically assaulted him at the Aloft hotel when the team was staying there during fall camp. Boyer said the incident resulted in a concussion, according to Yahoo! Sports.

UNC Football: Four Suspended Vs Liberty

The University says the investigation, led by the office of student affairs, is ongoing.

According to the News and Observer, a report was filed with the UNC Department of Public Safety (UNC Police) alleging aggravated assault, but it doesn’t say who called in the report or who was involved. It also says the report was filed on August 8, four days after the incident UNC is investigating is said to have taken place.

The N&O says UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken acknowledged that the date and time on the incident report were incorrect, and that a corrected report has been field.

The story also says he spoke with Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue about the report. Since the alleged incident took place off campus, CHPD would be the investigating agency. However, CHPD Public Information Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says no action was taken because of the limited information in the report.

“Without information related to a victim coming forward and asking for a report or something like that—we don’t have any incident report; we don’t have an investigation—so there’s not really anything for us to do,” Lt. Mecimore says.

He says no one has filed a reported pertaining to the alleged incident at the Aloft Hotel.

Four football players were suspended from the Liberty game for violating team rules. Those players were Des Lawrence, M.J. Stewart, Brian Walker, and Donnie Miles. Head coach Larry Fedora said the decision of a one-game suspension was final and he didn’t foresee further suspensions for those players on the field. He said he also didn’t expect any other players to be added to the list.

UNC Football: Four Suspended Vs Liberty

Coach Fedora wouldn’t say more about what the players did that got them suspended other than violating team policy.

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