Young alums call on UNC to meet challenges head on

Apr. 10, 2013 @ 06:32 PM

A group of recent UNC graduates have penned a letter to university officials, students, professors and fellow alums expressing concern about academic and athletic fraud scandals that have tarnished the reputation of their beloved alma mater.

UNC Young Alumni also said it is troubled by recent allegations that the university mishandled the reporting of sexual assault cases, which has led to a probe of UNC by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“Many of us learned what rape culture was at UNC,” the group said. “Whether through class, HAVEN trainings, student organizations or its too prevalent manifestation among our peers, we knew it existed, and many of us fought against it.”

In addition, the group said few alums should have been surprised by the athletic scandals that led to NCAA sanctions after it was uncovered that multiple football players received improper benefits from a tutor and sports agents.

“Few alumni could truthfully say that they did not suspect some misconduct within our athletic department,” the letter said.  

The letter is addressed to the UNC Board of Governors, UNC system president Tom Ross, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp and the UNC administration, professors, students and alumni.

The group said it plans to deliver the letter electronically on Wednesday, but will send hard copies to Thorp and other top administrators.

“This letter is not intended to scold the university in any way,” said Hannah Friedman, a 2011 graduate who grew up in Durham and is now working in New York. “We stand with the university in what is a difficult time.”

As young alums, Friedman and the other 149 alums who signed the letter, said they want to be a part of the discussions that lead to solutions to the myriad problems that have bedeviled UNC in recent years.

The Young Alumni asked the university to consider three recommendations:

-- The university must, without regard to influence or notoriety of the responsible party or negative publicity garnered, hold anyone engaged with academic fraud at the university accountable.

-- Strictly apply Carolina’s overall standards for academic admission to all student-athletes and ensure that these students pursue meaningful academic careers while at Carolina.

-- Implement substantial reforms to protect and support all students, including but not limited to providing comprehensive sexual assault prevention education to all Carolina students, faculty and staff, fully accepting and acknowledging its complicity in creating a hostile environment for victims of sexual assault and removing any staff found to have encouraged suppression of incidences of sexual assault.

“We endorse you to lead: in maintaining the true meaning of the student-athlete, in preserving the integrity of the university’s core academic mission, and in fostering a safe culture and campus,” the letter said.

Friedman said the university has a chance to seize the moment and to become a leader in developing solutions to the problems that has sullied the name of the state’s flagship school.

  “The university has an opportunity to affirm its role as a leader nationally and internationally on issues of social justice,” Friedman said. “That’s always been the university’s identity in the state and the county, to lead on these issues just as we have in health and business issues and academia.”