The question of how the college transcript of former student Julius Peppers ended up being made public is taking a back seat to questions about the lack of academic rigor in degree programs being pursued by NCAA student-athletes. The transcript of Peppers, who is a former student-athlete at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is filled with courses from the school’s African and Afro-American Studies Department — and there are suspicions that by making the transcript public, the school violated federal privacy laws.
Although the veracity of the transcript hasn’t been confirmed or denied by UNC, school representatives said they were looking into how it ended up on a publicly available school website. According to the document, Peppers took four separate independent study classes offered by the African and Afro-American Studies department, including one that was repeated three times. The grades received for these courses made him eligible to participate in the college sports program.
According to a U.S. Department of Education official, the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act “protects the education record of the student who is or has been in attendance at the school.” The official said it makes no difference whether the student is current or former.
“Under FERPA, a consent for disclosure of education records must be signed and dated and must specify the records that may be disclosed; state the purpose of the disclosure; and identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure may be made,” the official said in a statement. “If a student contacts this office alleging that his or her rights under FERPA had been violated, we may open an investigation.”
Any institution that violates FERPA risks losing all its federal funding.
The transcript leak is the latest in a series of blows suffered by this particular academic department. Prior to Pepper’s grades becoming available, the department was already under investigation by the NCAA, which was looking at allegations that student-athletes received special consideration from members of the department, including help with classwork, classes that didn’t require attendance, and access to independent study courses that weren’t open to regular students.
A report outlining the conclusions of an internal UNC investigation found problems with 54 courses offered by the African and Afro-American Studies Department over a four-year period, with most issues linked to the former head of the department, Julius Nyang’oro. University officials submitted a copy of the report to the NCAA, but a later independent investigation by WRAL Investigates, a consumer watchdog show, found even more independent study courses not listed on the UNC report — of which one section was made up entirely of members of the UNC men’s football and basketball teams.
“I have come to the conclusion the problem is a systemic one,” said UNC history professor Jay Smith while joining Adam and Joe on 99.9 The Fan ESPN Radio Tuesday. “It is not an athletic or academic one. It is a systemic problem across the campus. Pinning it on entirely on athletics is wrong and pinning it on a couple individuals is wrong.”
On Tuesday, UNC told WRAL that the university investigation has not ended.