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Martin Report Executive Summary of UNC academic scandal investigation

Posted Saturday, December 22, 2012

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Raleigh, NC - From 2010 to 2011, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC or the University) investigation identified “serious anomalies” related to the course offerings and methods of instruction within the Department of African and Afro-American Studies (the Department or AFRI/AFAM). Jonathan Hartlyn and William Andrews, both Senior Associate Deans within the College of Arts and Sciences, then conducted a comprehensive review of every course in the Department for data representing four academic years (2007-2011) and five Summer sessions (2007-2011). Their report (the Hartlyn-Andrews Report) in May 2012 identified 54 courses with “academic anomalies,” including:

Courses where students completed work and received grades without the course being supervised or graded by an approved instructor of record; and
Courses that were designed to include regular classroom time and instructor contact but were offered with limited to no classroom or other instructional contact.
Irregularities in independent study courses, and related to temporary grades and unauthorized grade changes, either temporary or permanent; and
Submitted student grade rolls or change of grade forms that the instructors of record do not remember having signed or approved.
University leaders questioned whether anomalous courses had been offered beyond the period of the Hartlyn-Andrews Report or in other academic departments outside of AFRI/AFAM. To address these outstanding concerns, UNC invited former North Carolina Governor James G. Martin, supported by Baker Tilly, a national advisory firm with extensive higher education consulting experience, to lead an independent review to address questions of further academic anomalies. UNC tasked Governor Martin and Baker Tilly (the review team) with reviewing an expanded population of courses to address the following questions:

What year did academic anomalies begin?
Did anomalies exist in other academic subjects or departments outside of AFRI/AFAM?
What were the factors or environment that allowed the anomalies to occur and who was culpable?

To expand upon the time period previously covered by the Hartlyn-Andrews Report, the review team based our findings on data analysis covering all course sections with undergraduate students enrolled from the 1994 Fall term through second Summer term in 2012, covering: 18 years, 172,580 course sections, 68 academic terms, 118,611 undergraduates, 12,715 instructors, and 4,603,810 data elements.

We conducted 84 interviews with University faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders. We also considered information previously reported through internal investigations and reviews. Our comprehensive analysis considered all manner of available information, related narratives, and subjective speculation.

The review team leveraged a “cascade” approach to flagging potentially anomalous course sections for further review, as summarized below.

Findings

We drew conclusions through documentation review and interviews based on defined criteria. Summarized below are the total numbers of course sections and grade changes by type of conclusion:

Summary of

Course Sections Tested

Course Section Conclusions 720

Identified through “red flags” 86

“Cleared” through initial screen 268

Cleared via interviews 129

Inconclusive –Independent Study Course Sections 21

Inconclusive –Lecture Course Sections 10

Type 3 – Anomalous IndependentStudy Course Section 167

Type 2 – Anomalous Lecture CourseSections 39

Type 1 – Academic Misconduct in aLecture Course

Summary of Grade Change Conclusions

Grade Change Conclusions 1,136

Grade changes associated with 347 course sections 203

Cleared Grade Changes 373

InconclusiveGrade Changes 454

Type 2 –Potentially Unauthorized Grade Changes 106

Type 1 – UnauthorizedGrade Changes

Based on the results of our data analyses, documentation review, and interviews, we drew the following overall conclusions:

The presence of confirmed anomalous course sections in the Department of African and Afro- American Studies extended as far back as Fall 1997. If anomalies were occurring in the 1994-1996 time period, they were not prevalent, were unrelated to instructor overload, and were not associated with course sections with numerous grade changes.

The percentage of student-athletes enrolled in anomalous course sections was consistent with the percentage of student-athletes enrolled in all courses offered by the Department.

We found no indication of academic misconduct or other anomalies in departments outside of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

We identified 216 course sections, or over 40 percent of the initially selected course sections, with proven or potential anomalies.
We reviewed both temporary and permanent grade changes, noting grade change anomalies only in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and identifying 454 suspected unauthorized grade changes
Eighty percent of the Department’s grade changes in courses with “red flags” were temporary grade changes.
No evidence from our review points to anyone else’s involvement beyond Ms. Crowder and Dr. Nyang’oro. While we cannot definitively conclude regarding the degree of Ms. Crowder’s responsibility for the academic anomalies noted in this report, both this review and the Hartlyn- Andrews Report found a dramatic reduction in academic anomalies after Summer 2009, which coincided with the time of Ms. Crowder’s retirement.

One of the key questions surrounding the anomalies identified is why anomalous courses were offered. The review team sought to understand what were the factors or environment that allowed the anomalies to occur and who benefitted.

The review team identified no confirmation for speculation that the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) academic counselors colluded with instructors or administrators to offer anomalous course sections for the benefit of student-athletes or engage in any improper activities to maintain eligibility of a student-athlete.

In the case of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, there is evidence that certain ASPSA employees were aware that certain courses within the Department were so-called “Term Paper Courses,” and that lecture courses were being taught in an independent study format. When these concerns were raised, the Faculty Athletic Committee stated that it was incumbent upon each instructor of record to determine how to teach his/her own course and that it was therefore unnecessary for ASPSA personnel to question the instructional methods used.

The high degree of trust and autonomy, coupled with manual processes, in the University-wide environment created an opportunity for an administrator and a department chair to schedule classes and change grades with limited oversight. New University policies and procedures are designed to address this issue for the future.

We did not identify any instances in which unusual personal or professional gains or incentives were received by Dr. Nyang’oro or Ms. Crowder in exchange for courses offered within the Department (either specifically for student-athletes or otherwise). We discovered no evidence of unusual compensation to Dr. Nyang’oro and Ms. Crowder beyond their standard University salaries4, nor any evidence of the provision of other financial incentives to either of them by the University or by certain affiliated University organizations.

The existence of less challenging, or “easy,” courses does not in itself represent academic misconduct. The results of our analysis of “easy courses” did not support speculation that student-athletes comprised a higher population of the enrollment for these courses.
Based on our work, we conclude that this matter was truly academic in nature and not an athletic scandal as originally speculated, and that the identified academic misconduct and anomalies were isolated to the Department of African and African-American Studies. We appreciate the cooperation and unrestricted access by the University afforded to the review team in the conduct of this project.

(pages 5-8 of the Martin Report)

 
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Martin Report Executive Summary of UNC academic scandal investigation
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