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New Details Revealed In University Of North Carolina Academic Scandal


There are new details on a very dark chapter of the story of one of the most prestigious public universities in the country - the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And independent investigation is out this week about a long-running scandal. For nearly two decades, students - many of them athletes - took phony classes and got bogus grades. In a moment, we'll have a conversation with the university's chancellor. First, we'll hear the details from reporter Jeff Tiberii of member station WUNC.

JEFF TIBERII, BYLINE: For 18 years, students at UNC took classes that didn't meet. They required nothing more than a paper, which was often plagiarized and generally resulted in a high grade. Chancellor Carol Folt, who took over a year ago, spoke yesterday about the latest investigation.


CHANCELLOR CAROL FOLT: I am deeply debt disappointed in the duration and the extent of the wrongdoing, as well as the lack of oversight, specifically vital missing checks and balances.

TIBERII: Those missing checks and balances allowed the chair of the African and Afro-American studies department and a staff secretary to create phony one-on-one courses that allowed students to boost their GPAs.

About half of those students where athletes who needed the boost so they could keep playing. Yesterday, the lead investigator Kenneth Wainstein revealed the findings of an eight-month review. The former federal prosecutor found that more than 3,100 students were involved in the scheme that lasted from 1993 until 2011. He described how that secretary, who's now retired, orchestrated it all.

KENNETH WAINSTEIN: She'd give them a paper assignment. She would grade that paper herself and do so typically with an A or a B+ plus. And the grading would be done pretty much without regard to the quality of the paper. There was never a faculty member involved in the process.

TIBERII: The report did not implicate any high ranking administrators or coaches.

RICHARD SOUTHALL: It's not shocking to me at all. This is the cost of doing business in big-time college sports.

TIBERII: Richard Southall is director of the College Sport Research Institute at the University of South Carolina.

SOUTHALL: I think what this is indicative of is the inability of everyone involved in college sports to step back and take a hard fast look at the system.

TIBERII: There have been other scandals involving no-show, fake-paper classes at Auburn University and the University of Michigan. This report is the most comprehensive of anything to date.

GREGG EASTERBROOK: Oh, it's by far the biggest scandal because Chapel Hill aspires to be an elite university.

TIBERII: Gregg Easterbrook is a sports writer and editor at The Atlantic Monthly. He says the report doesn't look high enough up the ladder.

EASTERBROOK: Thousands of students over 18 years and not one single person in University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill leadership had any responsibility? Nobody knew anything? Nobody should be blamed or penalized in any way at the top? It's a whitewash through and through.

TIBERII: Still, the school did announce four staff members have been fired because of information from the investigation. Another five are under disciplinary review. UNC did not indicate if it will review diplomas from any of the thousands of students who took the phony classes. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Tiberii in North Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Tiberii first started posing questions to strangers after dinner at La Cantina Italiana, in Massachusetts, when he was two-years-old. Jeff grew up in Wayland, Ma., an avid fan of the Boston Celtics, and took summer vacations to Acadia National Park (ME) with his family. He graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and moved to North Carolina in 2006. His experience with NPR member stations WAER (Syracuse), WFDD (Winston-Salem) and now WUNC, dates back 15 years.