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Practices in African, Afro-American Studies Draw Scrutiny

The University is reviewing possible irregularities with undergraduate courses in the  department of African and Afro-American studies.

Karen Gil, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, told the University Gazette that the college will review its policies and practices for independent study and directed readings courses college-wide and that the college is looking into “anomalies” in a “subset of courses” in African and Afro-American studies.

The Gazette is a University publication for its employees.

Julius Nyang’oro, who had been chair of the department since 1992, resigned as chair last month after his name surfaced in connection with three different aspects of the investigation into the UNC football program.

A University spokesperson confirmed a newspaper report that 21 percent of the enrollments in independent studies courses in the department over a five-year period starting in fall 2006 were football players. That does not necessarily indicate how many individuals were enrolled, as one person could have taken multiple courses.

The department offered 76 independent study undergraduate courses over that period. There were 327 total enrollments. Football players and one men’s basketball player accounted for 69, or 21.1 percent, of those enrollments.

Gil has asked the administrative boards of the college to make recommendations about expectations concerning student assignments and contact hours with professors or teaching assistants in independent study courses; conditions and approvals for lectures and seminars to be delivered in an alternative format; and the process for converting directed readings courses to permanent courses.

Independent study involves a one-on-one faculty-student relationship in which the student typically does research and produces a paper and does not attend classes. Directed readings courses are similar and involve readings directed by a faculty member with an individual student.

At the time of Nyang’oro’s resignation, Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 said, “The University has been reviewing academic issues related to some courses in our Department of African and Afro-American Studies. The questions that we have concern possible irregularities with courses that included undergraduate students. We will continue to review the facts to determine whether there have been any violations of university policy and to determine what additional actions are necessary.

“Because academic integrity is paramount, we have every obligation to get to the bottom of these issues. This process has been difficult, and we’ve been through a lot this past year, but the only right thing to do is to pursue the facts and fix the problems.”

Nyang’oro, who remains on the faculty, is the professor who missed football player Michael McAdoo’s plagiarism, which came to light in McAdoo’s lawsuit against the University and the NCAA seeking reinstatement to the team after he was suspended last fall. In August, Nyang’oro was found to have hired Carl Carey Jr. ’00 (PhD), a registered sports agent who was representing some former Carolina football players, to teach a course over the summer. That raised concerns in light of the recent NCAA violations involving improper contact between players and agents.

Another football player, Marvin Austin ’11, was enrolled in a 400-level course taught by Nyang’oro in the summer before his first full semester at UNC. The News & Observer of Raleigh, which is investigating academic issues related to the football probe, reported that the course had no prerequisites but that it did require permission of the professor and that Austin received a B-plus in the course. Austin was dismissed from the program last fall by the University for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules.


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