Former UNC professor indicted
Former UNC-Chapel Hill African and Afro-American Studies Department chairman Julius Nyang’oro was indicted Monday by an Orange County grand jury on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretenses.
According to Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall, Nyang’oro, 59, allegedly took $12,000 for classes that he did not teach at the university. The lower-level felony has a low likelihood of prison time if Nyang’oro is convicted, Woodall said, with a minimum sentence of four months on probation and a maximum of 30 months.
In a statement released Monday, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Fult said, “the action described in today’s indictment is completely inconsistent with the standards and aspirations of this great institution. … I am confident because of the effective processes already put in place, we are moving ahead as a stronger institution with more transparent academic policies, procedures and safeguards.”
The African and Afro-American Studies Department at UNC came under investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation following claims of possible criminal misconduct in relation to professors being paid for classes they were not teaching.
In addition, a university-appointed commission led by former Gov. Jim Martin looked into concerns that athletes may have received special treatment in some of the department’s classes, dating back to 1997. The group found more than 200 courses offered in the department with little or no instruction.
These courses had “proven or potential anomalies” which were broken down into two types: the instructor of record disclaimed any responsibility for the course or courses being listed and approved as lecture courses only requiring one term paper for a course grade.
More than 400 suspected unauthorized grade changes were also discovered during the course of the investigation.
The courses in question had high concentrations of athletes. While athletes accounted for almost half of the enrolled students in the questionable courses they represented less than 5 percent of the entire student body.
The investigation that resulted in the indictment was into criminal activity only, not into claims of academic fraud.
Nyang’oro was the first chair of the department but stepped down in August 2011 when UNC began its investigation. He retired in June 2012. The department’s name has since been changed to the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies.
A statement released by the university said that, “as validated by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the academic policies, procedures and practices implemented over the past two years are thorough and comprehensive. The university strongly believes that everything possible has been done to prevent these irregularities from happening again.”
The university recouped the money paid to Nyang’oro for the courses by later docking his pay.
Woodall’s investigation also looked into whether or not anyone tried to cover up crimes within the department, if anyone illegally changed grades and if anyone had committed fraud.
Woodall said that an additional person may be indicted in January in a related case. The person is not a current UNC employee, he said.
Attempts to contact Nyang’oro for comment were unsuccessful.