UNC Chancellor: Report Reveals 'Shocking Lack' Of Checks And Balances

Oct 24, 2014
Originally published on October 23, 2014 6:35 pm
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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now a conversation with UNC's Chancellor Carol Folt. I began asking by her about the accusation you just heard - that this report is a whitewash.

CHANCELLOR CAROL FOLT: The Wainstein report would hardly be considered a whitewash since it was the actual report that identified for the first time that 18-year history and has actually given us the grounds to take actions that haven't already been put in place to make sure it would never happen again. One of the things that was pointed out was a really shocking lack of check and balances.

CORNISH: We want to talk about some of these missed red flags. One example from the report, an email in which a faculty member named Jan Boxill - she actually served as an academic counselor for the women's basketball team and has run a center for ethics, actually, at the university, of all things. In this email, she says she didn't look at a student's paper, that a D grade would be fine. And that she wrote - figured it was a recycled paper, as in plagiarized. And she seemed completely untroubled by that. Does Professor Boxill still have her job?

FOLT: Well, I think I've said from the start that we're not going to discuss personnel actions and so I won't really talk about that with you either. I will say that that type of behavior is not something that I find even remotely acceptable.

CORNISH: This does get at the issue of academic counseling. The academic support program for student athletes is cited all over this report as funneling students towards these phantom and fake classes. At this point, what are you doing with that program? Does it get overhauled altogether? Was it completely corrupted?

FOLT: So I think what's really important to realize is that that report is talking about things that first became known by people here beginning in 2011. There had been years of work going on at Chapel Hill. I wasn't here. I came in recently and was asked really to lead the institution and to get to the bottom of this if that - whenever new information became possible.

But in that period of time, the university had put in more than 70 new processes, including everything that you can imagine to make sure that these sorts of omissions in review - as I said, the checks and balances that are necessary - those are all in.

CORNISH: Can you give us an example?

FOLT: Oh, an example would be, first of all, there's the department - there's a review of every chair of every department - an annual review. There is now a very strong electronic record system that follows students that are in independent study classes. We flag for further review all classes that have student athlete enrollments of more than 20 percent of the class.

You know, I could go on. There are many in place. And so I'm very pleased with that. The first thing we did when we saw the report is sit down and go OK, once again, let's go through it in great detail. I want to be confident that everything that shows up in this report - we believe right now we have all the mechanisms in place that would find that and stop it and bring to our attention anyone who was involved in it.

CORNISH: Do you see what happened at UNC as emblematic of something going on in high-stakes Division I, you know, college sports, revenue-generating sports?

FOLT: You know, I'm really focused on what's happening here. And I think that...

CORNISH: But you understand why I can ask? I mean, the Carolina way, right, was a brand, which meant winning on the court or on the field, as well as winning in the classroom. This certainly undermines that.

FOLT: Well, what I'm saying is that I have to focus on what we can do here rather than try to determine whether other people are doing it at their institutions. And I believe very strongly that that is our aspiration - is to have them be successful on the field and in the classroom.

And I think we're going to put the things in place that are necessary to make our people feel confident about what we're doing. I want our students to feel that when they enter this wonderful university, they're going to have a great academic experience and we're going to help them thrive. And so I'm willing to do what it takes to make sure that we're confident in that.

CORNISH: Carol Folt, thank you so much for speaking with us.

FOLT: Thank you.

CORNISH: Carol Folt is the Chancellor of UNC Chapel Hill. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.