UNC academics investigation could wrap up this summer
The results of an independent inquiry into academic irregularities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are expected this summer.
Chancellor Carol Folt said during a meeting of the UNC Board of Trustees on Thursday that she’s ready to see the results of Kenneth L. Wainstein’s investigation.
“We’ll probably have the report to us this summer,” Folt said. “We’ll take the information and do what it suggests is needed.”
The university in February hired Wainstein – a former U.S. Justice Department official -- to delve into concerns about issues such as the former Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Julius Nyang’oro faced criminal charges in Orange County after prosecutors said he received $12,000 for a class he didn’t teach in 2011.
Other media accounts in March indicated that Wainstein also wanted to meet with Mary Willingham, the former UNC reading specialist who made national news by claiming that 68 percent of student-athletes tested (especially in football and basketball) couldn’t read at a high school level. Three academics hired by UNC disputed her calculations and the veracity of her data.
Folt also shared the concerns of trustee Steve Lerner regarding a proposed state budget that would make severe cuts to UNC’s centers and institutes for research.
“I feel deeply that these programs are very important to our students and our state,” she said.
The chancellor said that she sees this as a chance to educate the legislature about the important research work underway at the university.
“What are we not explaining well enough?” she said. “What can we do to help?”
Lowry Caudill, the board chair, said during opening remarks on Thursday that he’s pleased by the effort put forth by the chancellor during her first year.
“It’s the leadership we expected when she joined us,” he said.
Folt described the first year as “amazing,” despite challenges presented by budget cuts, a Title IX investigation into how the university handles sexual assaults and allegations about student-athlete illiteracy and no-show classes.
She expressed pride in students who put concerns about assaults on the radar: “We’re very proud Carolina students were some of the first to raise their voices on this issue.”
It’s been humbling, she said, but “we’re strengthened by the challenges we’ve faced.”
In other action:
-- Trustee Alston Gardner discussed a presentation by UNC students who want to see Saunders Hall renamed. The building was named after William Saunders, thought to have been a Ku Klux Klan leader in the 1800s. During the next 60 days, Gardner said, trustees will talk to historians and seek input on next steps. The protest has sparked a couple of hashtag movements, including #RenameSaunders and #KickOutTheKKK.
-- The board approved leasing of a 17,684-square-foot office space on Roberson Street to temporarily house the UNC Development Office while space it owns at 208 W. Franklin St. is renovated. The 10-month lease costs $342,393, with an option to renew for another two months for $68,479.
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