Reviews confirm academic problems, validate reforms

Former Gov. James Martin and Raina Rose Tagle of Baker Tilly

The University’s board of trustees received two external reviews Thursday that were commissioned following the discovery of past academic irregularities in the department of African and Afro-American studies.  Reviewers found that the problems began in 1997, involved two persons who no longer work here, and did not occur in any other academic departments. Reviewers also validated the extensive policies and procedures that have been put in place to prevent similar irregularities from occurring in the future.

Chancellor Holden Thorp and the trustees retained Baker Tilly, a national management consulting firm specializing in academic operations procedures and controls, to assess the numerous new policies, procedures and controls being implemented by the University, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Summer School and the department.

In August, Thorp also asked former N.C. Gov. James Martin to explore, with no restrictions, any issues raised by the College’s previous review of courses. Martin was assisted by Baker Tilly. The University cooperated fully.

Gov. Martin presented the trustees with the results of his review of course data. He said that the problems uncovered were academic in nature rather than athletic. His key findings, based on reviewing courses taken by all UNC undergraduates between 1994 and 2012, included:

  • The anomalous courses discovered in African and Afro-American studies extended as far back as fall 1997.
  • The percentage of student-athletes enrolled in the anomalous course sections was consistent with the percentage of student-athletes enrolled in all courses offered by the department.
  • No academic misconduct or anomalies were found outside of African and Afro-American studies in other academic departments or units.
  • The same two people previously implicated were responsible: a former department chair who retired at the end of June, and a former department manager who retired in 2009..
  • Martin emphasized that there was no evidence to implicate any other faculty members in the department or any other academic department on campus.

Raina Rose Tagle, a partner and National Practice Leader in Baker Tilly’s Higher Education Practice, told the trustees that the firm reviewed the policy and procedure changes drawn from more than 70 recommendations  in four previous University and College reviews. Tagle told the trustees that Baker Tilly found no gaps in the implementation of the new policies and procedures.