UNC to Make Up for Academic Fraud Scandal With Free Courses

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has decided to offer free make-up classes to students who took fraudulent courses in the African and Afro-American Studies department.

The university will offer 46 students the option of taking a course, sitting for a special exam or presenting prior work to be evaluated by faculty. Many of the affected students are athletes, according to Jane Stancill of News Observer.

According to the university’s spokeswoman Dee Reid, only one student has enrolled a make-up course and only one alumnus has inquired about the possibility. She did not disclose “what year of study the 46 affected students are in or how many of them are athletes.”

To offer free courses, the university made an arrangement with its accrediting body, the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The university identified 384 students and alumni who took 39 fraudulent classes between 1997 and 2009 in the African and Afro-American Studies department. The university has blamed the fraud on the former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro, and a former department manager, Debbie Crowder. They no longer work for the university.

The commission’s board in June voted to approve the university’s plan to offer the classes and decided to monitor the university’s progress in the coming months. It did not impose a sanction such as a warning or probation that would have been a blow to the university.

The university is already bruised from athletic and academic scandals in the past few years and penalties can be a prelude to revoked accreditation and a loss of federal funds.

In the African and Afro-American Studies department, the suspect courses were disproportionately enrolled with athletes.  A total of 80 students and 304 alumni took so-called “Type 1” lecture classes “in which the instructor denied teaching or signing the grade roll, or which the department chairman said had not been taught.”

There is no mandate for the 304 alumni to return to campus for a do-over. Because university policy requires that transcripts are sealed one year after graduation, there would be no way to award credit or a grade for a new class.

According to the university, 34 students were not affected because they did not need the course to graduate or because they did not get credit for the African Studies class or transferred to another institution.

Karen Gil, dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, sent a letter on May 14th to 46 affected students that instructed students to make an appointment with an adviser.

UNC-Chapel Hill plans to cover the cost of the extra courses and textbooks with private money. The university, initially, planned to count the suspect classes toward graduation credit for students.

The State Bureau of Investigation has launched investigations into possible criminal conduct related to the academic fraud.

“The university will not allow any students who have not yet graduated to use a ‘Type 1’ class taken in the past to fulfill their remaining undergraduate degree requirements,” Reid said.