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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Addendum supports conclusions of initial Martin academic review report

Former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin stands behind his assertion that the anomalies discovered in courses offered in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies were an academic issue, not an athletic one, and that the academic abuses did not go beyond two individuals in the department who no longer work here.

Martin presented those findings last month to both the University’s Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors Academic Review Panel that is examining the campus investigations into academic impropriety (see bit.ly/WGrWWt for details).

In response to a request from the BOG panel for additional information, Martin last week included an addendum to the initial report that detailed the enrollment composition of the anomalous courses and grade changes in those courses. He was assisted in both analyses by national management consulting firm Baker Tilly.

The initial report summarized the issues at the macro level and presented conclusions about the participation of student-athletes in the anomalous courses related to other courses in African and Afro-American studies as well as across the University as a whole, Raina Rose Tagle, a partner with Baker Tilly, told the BOG panel on Jan. 25.

The addendum provides additional data and drills down to specific course details, including grade averages for both student-athletes and non-athletes and factors affecting the clustering of students in class enrollment, she said.

“We believe the information we presented in this addendum is wholly consistent and supportive of the conclusions we initially reported in the main report,” she said. “We have been as thorough as possible to come up with a robust analysis. It is the same data, the same analysis and same conclusions – just more precise.”

Equal access to courses

Student-athletes were not the primary beneficiaries of the anomalous course sections, Martin and Rose Tagle found. All students had the opportunity to enroll in these courses.

The follow-up examination looked at the proportion of student-athletes and non-athletes in 172 suspect lecture and independent study courses between 2001 and 2012, the time period for which student-athlete data was available.

Student-athletes comprised 45 percent of the enrollment in these courses, Rose Tagle said. Some courses had no student-athletes, while a handful had all student-athletes, but there was no consistent percentage of student-athletes on a course-by-course basis, she explained to the BOG panel.

“The percentage of student-athlete participation was consistent with non-athlete participation in that department and other departments,” Rose Tagle said.

Both the original and the follow-up analysis showed a natural clustering in course enrollment among various student affiliations, including fraternities and sororities, residence halls and student-athletes.

“The make-up of anomalous courses wasn’t different from the non-anomalous courses or in different departments,” Rose Tagle said. “People want to take classes with people they know.”

Both student-athletes and non-athletes earned high grades in the suspect courses – a 3.56 and 3.63 grade-point average, respectively – the new analysis found, something Martin linked to grade inflation in higher education.

Student-athletes did receive temporary grade changes more often than non-athletes did, Rose Tagle said, but she and Martin did not find this surprising. Given student-athletes’ schedules, it is often necessary for them to make up a missed exam, which the temporary grade could reflect, she explained.

But student-athletes were not as likely to receive unauthorized permanent grade changes as non-athletes, the findings showed.

Faculty awareness

Many factors affecting academic and administrative oversight led to a climate that supported the academic improprieties found in African and Afro-American studies, Rose Tagle explained to the BOG panel.

She clarified that Martin had not implied that the Faculty Athletics Committee (FAC) ignored red flags or had been warned about anomalous courses up to a decade ago. In hindsight, though, the initial report said, the information the FAC reviewed may have represented a missed opportunity to look into the issue further.

In 2002 and in 2006–07, the FAC had discussed the frequency of student-athletes taking independent study courses, but at the time, Rose Tagle said, “no one understood the true nature of what we’ve come to know as anomalous courses and no one even suspected there was an occurrence of academic misconduct.”

Lissa Broome, a law school faculty member who was on the FAC in 2002 and 2006–07 and now serves as the University’s Faculty Athletics Representative, told the BOG panel that neither she nor her colleagues on the committee during those years were aware of any courses that were listed as lecture courses but taught as anomalous independent study courses.

“We all thought if it had been brought to our attention, it would have raised a red flag and we would have asked for additional information,” Broome said.

The meeting minutes show that the FAC asked advisers in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes for information about monitoring student-athletes’ independent study enrollments and to report back if there were concerns, she said.

Broome also wanted to make sure the panel understood that the FAC and the general faculty would never use academic freedom to justify academic improprieties or misconduct. The Martin report indicated that some faculty had suggested that academic freedom allowed great latitude in teaching approved courses.

The issue was discussed during this month’s Faculty Council meeting when history professor Lloyd Kramer expressed concern that a perception that faculty were unconcerned about the integrity of courses could be used by people who wanted to damage the autonomy of academic freedom.

“We want to make sure that message isn’t taken away from this discussion and we appreciate Raina clarifying that in her remarks,” Broome said.

Next steps

Rose Tagle said the analyses – and conclusions – were final.

“We have had total access to every piece of data we have asked for or desired to incorporate into this analysis,” she said. “Our analysis and review have been exhaustive, and there is nothing else we would want to look at.”

Lou Bissette, chair of the BOG Academic Review Panel, said the group hoped to make its report to the full board in February.