Media Sue UNC for Names in Wainstein Personnel Actions

Ten media organizations have sued the University demanding the names of UNC personnel who were either fired or disciplined following the release of the Wainstein report on Oct. 22.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt said on the day of the report’s release that UNC had either fired or started disciplinary proceedings against nine people who were implicated in the University’s long-running academics/athletics scandal.

She said at the time that privacy rules prohibited her from releasing the names.

The suit filed in Wake County Superior Court by Raleigh and Durham television stations, The Daily Tar Heel, The News & Observer and others says that under state public records laws, the dismissal or disciplining of a state employee is public record.

Folt and Felicia A. Washington, vice chancellor for workforce strategy, equity and engagement, are the named defendants.

After the suit was filed, the University released a personnel file report on Jaimie Lee, who had worked in academic counseling since 2006, that says her employment ended on the day the Wainstein report was released.

This is what the Wainstein report says about Lee:

“Lee started working as a tutor and mentor in 2006 and became a full-time ASPSA [Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes] member in 2007; initially, she worked with students in all different sports, but she soon began working exclusively with football players. Lee first encountered paper classes as a tutor and mentor, and she became fully aware of them when she became a counselor. Lee stated her view that the paper classes provided an opportunity to work on the building blocks of a research paper, such as how to write a thesis statement, how to create an abstract, how to conduct research, and ultimately, how to do critical analysis. Nonetheless, Lee, along with Beth Bridger, delivered a presentation to the football coaches in November 2009 that described the football team’s past reliance on AFAM paper classes for eligibility purposes.

“After Crowder retired, Lee built a relationship with [Julius] Nyang’oro by emailing him and visiting him on a regular basis. She asked him to offer certain paper classes, with some success; for example, the Summer 2011 AFAM 280 paper class was offered in response to a request from Lee. Lee stated that she does not recall the specifics and denied having influenced Nyang’oro’s decision to offer the course, although she acknowledged that she had asked Nyang’oro whether a class would be offered that student-athletes might be interested in.”

Bridger, who had left UNC in 2013 to work at UNC-Wilmington, was fired at the behest of UNC System President Thomas Ross ’75 (JD) on the day the report came out.

UNC has not released any other names. According to a statement from Rick White, UNC’s associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs: “Employee termination or disciplinary actions taken by the University are not final until one of the following occurs: (1) The time period in which the employee could file an appeal or grievance has expired without any filing; or (2) The appeal or grievance process has been completed as a result of the employee filing an appeal or grievance.”

Wainstein’s team found that Deborah Crowder ’75, who managed the office of the former department of African and Afro-American studies, started and maintained the department’s practice of offering the “paper classes” that are at the heart of a long-running investigation into academics and athletics at the University.

Wainstein’s report, following an eight-month investigation, was the first to name names, and it cited a number of key people who knew for years what Crowder was doing. Wainstein separated them into those who merely knew there were easy classes available in Crowder’s office and those who also knew the classes advertised faculty involvement — mostly department chair Julius Nyang’oro’s — but provided none.

Jan Boxill, who teaches in the philosophy department and was chair of the faculty from 2011 until earlier this year, was removed from the directorship of UNC’s Parr Center for Ethics after the report stated that she was fully aware of Crowder’s scheme.

The lawsuit lists 21 people it says were “connected with the paper-only classes.” Among them are Boxill; Bobbi Owen, who was senior associate dean for undergraduate education; Tim McMillan ’80 (’82 MA,’89 PhD) and Sinamenye Alphonso Mutima, lecturers in African and Afro-American studies (now known as African, African-American and diaspora studies); Charlene Regester ’76 (’81 MA, ’87 PhD), a professor in the department; Eunice Sayle, the current chair of the department; and others involved in advising, tutoring and mentoring students and/or administering those duties.

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