Tuesday, December 3, 2013

UNC scandal update: A whimper, not a bang

It's possible that in 2011, when Julius Nyang'oro created yet another summer class that UNC-Chapel Hill students didn't need to attend for academic credit, he had his eye on a $12,000 paycheck for little to no work.

It's also possible that Nyang'oro, the African Studies chairman, saw that $12,000 as a make-up of sorts for the many no-show classes he created and didn't take payment for in previous years, as UNC records show. 

It's possible, too, that Nyang'oro created the class with the knowledge and encouragement of athletic department officials. Shortly after "AFAM 280: Blacks in America" was created, it was filled with UNC football players, who took up 18 of the 19 spots.

But unfortunately, it's become probable that while we have a clear understanding of the scope of these no-show classes through the years at UNC, we won't get much closer to learning who and what might have been behind them. For those who hoped that the courts would provide illumination that the university couldn't or wouldn't provide about its academic scandal, this week's grand jury indictment of Nyang'oro is a disappointment.

The News & Observer's Dan Kane reports today that Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall apparently didn't pursue the bigger  questions surrounding the no-show classes. Woodall told Kane that his investigation focused on crimes alleged - specifically Nyang'oro taking money for a class he didn't teach - rather than the cause of the academic fraud. Woodall also said that he didn't see any further investigation justifying the additional time and expense.

All of which leaves us pretty much where we were earlier this year after the university spent $940,000 on a flimsy investigation, led by former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin, who didn't manage to talk to Nyang'oro and other key figures before concluding that UNC's academic fraud didn't involve the athletic department.

That conclusion seemed to ignore Kane's reporting on emails showing a curious relationship between Nyang'oro and members of the school's academic support staff, who offered him football tickets, sideline access and drinks. Martin, and an investigative team from the Baker Tilly law firm, inexplicably didn't get around to including those emails in their report. Martin didn't even bother addressing the issue of athletes disproportionately attending the no-show classes.

There's still a possibility that Nyang'oro will fight the felony indictment - he's charged with obtaining property by false pretenses - and in doing so shed some light on the hows and whys. But the low-level felony typically results only in probation - and those likely aren't stakes worth Nyang'oro possibly implicating himself in a wider academic/athletic conspiracy.

It's possible, of course, that there was no wider conspiracy. But Martin's investigation was too incomplete to offer that conclusion, and Woodall wasn't inclined to take his investigation there. That's perfectly fine with UNC officials, who have been eager from the start to move on from the scandal. It's looking like that's the only direction left to go.

Peter St. Onge


Cornelia said...

Just goes to show that many politicians--no matter their party--will sell their souks and reputations for a buck and/or a stroke of their vanity. Jim Martin is just sad, and a fraud, at this point in his life.

Redlight said...

Peter----thanks for saying what needed to be said. The bottom line is that the university sold it's soul for atheletics. You could see it coming when Butch Davis was hired.