Two More UNC Staff Fired Over Athletics-Academics Issues

The University has fired two more people in the wake of the athletics-academic scandal, and has prohibited a former senior administrator from ever holding an administrative position at UNC again. It cleared three other staff members whose actions had been reviewed following the release of the Wainstein report on the scandal last year.

Brent Blanton, associate director of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes; and Travis Gore, administrative assistant in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, were dismissed on Nov. 12. Blanton’s notification letter provided no details. But the Wainstein report said Blanton knew about the paper classes scheme run by Deborah Crowder ’75 in the former Department of Afro and African-American Studies.

The dismissal letter to Gore said he had falsified an email from two students so that Crowder would add them to an independent studies course; helped a student receive a final grade in an independent studies course by contacting Crowder and referring to her as the instructor of the course — after she had retired; and violated University and federal privacy rules by discussing confidential student record information on a specific student in emails to a friend.

Bobbi Owen, who was senior associate dean for undergraduate education from 2005 to 2014 and who since has returned to the faculty of the dramatic arts department, has been barred from administrative work. Immediately after the Wainstein report came out, she was removed as director of an honors study abroad program.

The report said, “In 2006, Owen apparently knew that the AFAM Department was enrolling far too many students in independent studies and told [former AFAM Chair Julius] Nyang’oro to limit the numbers and ‘rein’ Crowder in.” But Owen did not follow up and apparently did not share any concerns with others in the administration, according to the report.

UNC has cleared Corey Holliday ’93 (’97 MA), a former football player who is an associate director of athletics; Alphonse Mutima, a lecturer in the Department of African, African-American and Diaspora Studies; and Andre’ Williams ’04, (’07 MA), associate director of development for the Arts and Sciences Foundation and former director of football athlete development.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that Owen’s lawyer said she “denied knowing Nyang’oro was listed as teaching inordinately high numbers of independent studies, and that while she did ‘admonish’ Nyang’oro about actions Crowder had taken, Owen did not know about the fake classes.”

The paper quoted a statement from Owen: “As far as I am concerned, I always kept my supervisors and others informed. That said, I have no interest in Senior Administrative Positions at UNC-Chapel Hill at this point in my career, but do look forward to continuing to fully participate as an active member of the faculty in my department and of the University community.”

Wainstein said Blanton told his investigators that he and others in the ASPSA thought the paper classes were the same as legitimate independent studies. The report said Blanton, who was a counselor to men’s golfers and wrestlers and had worked with other athletes, directed some of his players to the paper classes.

Also, according to the report, Blanton “helped [women’s soccer] Coach Anson Dorrance [’75] attract top women’s soccer recruits to Chapel Hill by suggesting a hypothetical slate of courses that a recruit could take — often including paper courses…”

At the time of the Wainstein report release, Chancellor Carol L. Folt said she had fired or started disciplinary reviews of nine employees.

On the day of the report’s release in October 2014, Folt fired Jamie Lee an adviser in the academic support center for athletes. Beth Bridger, one of Lee’s colleagues who was working in a similar role at UNC-Wilmington, was fired on the day of the report’s release by UNC System President Thomas Ross ’75 (JD).

In January, UNC fired longtime faculty member Jan Boxill for her involvement in the paper classes scheme, now known to be extensive. Boxill resigned during an appeal process. On the same day her firing was announced, UNC said, that lecturer Tim McMillan ’80 (’82 MA,’89 PhD) had resigned. McMillan had been a member of the AFAM faculty for 20 years.

Nyang’oro had resigned as chair of the department and then retired prior t the report’s release.

Crowder, who managed the AFAM office, started and maintained the department’s practice of offering the “paper classes” that are at the heart of the long-running investigation into academics and athletics at the University.

Crowder, who started working in the office four years after she graduated from UNC and stayed there until 2009, developed a system of independent studies classes — listed as lecture-taught courses but which involved only completion of a single research paper and no professor present — that had the blessing of Nyang’oro. Crowder organized 188 courses, assigned the papers, graded them with high marks that bore no correlation to the quality of the work and did not look for plagiarism.

She operated the paper classes scheme over about 18 years. In the 12 years between 1999 and 2011, there were 3,933 enrollments in the paper classes, and 47.6 percent were varsity athletes — primarily football and men’s basketball players. Athletes make up less than 5 percent of the student body.

Since the release of the Wainstein report — which followed several other investigations of the issues — the University has instituted some 70 policy and procedural reforms, and continues to probe ways that athletes can be more fully integrated into the student body despite that fact that many of them are admitted below UNC’s admissions standards, and have to spend a significant amount of their time on their sports.

The Wainstein report touched off renewed interest in the issues by the NCAA and the University’s accrediting agency.

In June, the NCAA charged the University with lack of institutional control in its alleged failure to monitor AFAM and its academic support center for athletes, and asserted that UNC failed to rein in both when some employees began working together to perpetrate academic fraud. A new notice of allegations is due from the NCAA soon.

UNC is supposed to respond to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools by April 2016 as to how it is handling several points on which SACS found the University out of compliance with its standards for accreditation. Meanwhile UNC is on probation with SACS.

You can read the University’s statement on the latest personnel action at

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