Oct 242014


By Luke DeCock – staff columnist
October 23, 2014

The morning after facing up to an investigation into academic fraud at the University of North Carolina that was considerably less than flattering, Tom Ross and Carol Folt sat in a boardroom at The News & Observer and faced the uncomfortable question that underlies this entire mess.

Is excellence in big-time intercollegiate athletics fundamentally compatible with academic excellence at a national research university?

Despite going through an ordeal generally described as “painful,” Ross, the UNC system president, and Folt, the chancellor in Chapel Hill, both insisted that major-conference intercollegiate athletics have a place on campus. Folt included athletics as a critical component of the “unique American university,” that’s as much a community as a learning institution.

“The question for me,” Folt said, “is not do we get rid of athletics, but how do we make it successful and help them succeed?”

Here’s another question: Once you start admitting students to be something other than students, are the lofty goals of a research institution not inherently perverted?

Big-time athletics introduces variables into the campus equation that cannot be controlled. A single person, or small group of people, can break rules for their own purposes and tarnish the reputation of the entire university in the process.

If it leads to a coach on an agent’s payroll, or students who willfully break rules, how do you stop that? You can try, but there’s no guarantee. It’s all part of the bargain.

That’s what big-time athletics brings to the table, along with the community connection to the university and all the fundraising opportunities football and basketball can offer. There’s a price to be paid for that, and that price is risking a university’s academic reputation and integrity on behalf of its athletic success.

Academic hand-wringing aside, intercollegiate athletics aren’t getting any smaller as long as the television networks have open checkbooks, but as the entire industry enters a period of transition, driven by NCAA autonomy and multiple lawsuits and labor actions, under the growing threat of congressional or IRS intervention, the best path forward remains unclear.

You can turn down the volume and do things the Ivy League way. Or the Davidson way, the Campbell way. But the only way that big-time, major-conference athletics makes financial sense is if your revenue teams are successful more often than not. Otherwise they’re a tremendous drain on the university, emotionally and financially. North Carolina’s experience argues there’s no way to be successful at that elite level without balancing on an ethical precipice.

If questionable admissions are what it takes to get the athletes needed to be competitive in a power conference such as the ACC, such corner-cutting inherently invites the kind of corruption that took root at North Carolina.

“It’s not an easy fix,” Ross said. “Neither is it something a great university can’t handle. It’s incumbent upon us to make it happen.”

What independent investigator Kenneth Wainstein outlined Wednesday runs deep: A shortcut to athletic success at the expense of academic integrity, doing things the easy way, shuttling academically unqualified athletes along the path of least resistance for decades.

If it can happen at North Carolina, it can happen anywhere. Just because academic behemoths such as Duke and Stanford and Northwestern have apparently managed to do things the right way doesn’t mean this kind of cancer can’t lurk somewhere on campus, nurtured by the desperate quest for athletic success despite the best intentions.

Five years ago, North Carolina would have demanded inclusion in that group. Now, it’s the national example of what not to do. The challenge now is whether North Carolina can become the national example of how to put athletics in their proper place going forward. It’s the only way the university can redeem itself.

Oct 242014


By Nick Anderson October 23

Much has been made of irregular “paper classes” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which helped numerous student-athletes score high grades for little, if any, academic work.

But one aspect of the latest report on the scandal, this one from investigator Kenneth L. Wainstein, is worth a closer look: It wasn’t just about special favors for student-athletes.

The classes, which apparently offered no teaching and offered generous grading for term papers of dubious quality, persisted from 1993 to 2011. They provided more than 3,100 students with “one or more semesters of deficient instruction” within the African and Afro-American studies department, Wainstein reported.

Previous reports have illuminated the scandal, which started to emerge in 2011, but Wainstein’s is considered the most comprehensive. It was commissioned by UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt, who took office in 2013.

How irregular were the courses? Wainstein reported that one “particularly popular class” was third-level Swahili, in which students who struggled at lower levels in the subject were able to satisfy a foreign language requirement “by writing a paper about Swahili culture in English rather than completing a regular Swahili 3 class in Swahili.”

The report raises questions about how athletes were steered into these courses. But many who took them were not athletes. The report found that student-athletes accounted for 47.6 percent of “paper class” enrollment from 1999 to 2011. That meant the majority were not athletes.

Who were they?

Some stumbled into the classes without knowing they were bogus. But many sought them out.

“As with any course that offers an easy path to a high grade, word of these classes got around,” the report says. Some academic advisers pointed students to them. The report recounts an incident in which a struggling student with an academic scholarship in a program known as Morehead-Cain scholars was referred to a “paper class” to bolster his grade-point average to avoid losing his grant.

Word of the classes also circulated widely within fraternities.

Two fraternity members told investigators that the classes were seen as “a ‘loophole’ in Chapel Hill’s otherwise demanding curriculum.” These members said that some of their non-athlete fraternity brothers took so many of the classes that they inadvertently wound up with minors in African and Afro-American studies.

This raises questions about how many administrators at one of the nation’s most prestigious public universities knew about the scandal before it broke — or should have known.

Wainstein concluded that it is fair to criticize the university for a failure of oversight. But he found “no evidence that the higher levels of the university tried in any way to obscure the facts or the magnitude of the situation.”

Oct 242014


By Jane Stancill
October 23, 2014

WILMINGTON — Beth Bridger, who used to oversee academic support for UNC football, was “separated” from UNC Wilmington on Wednesday, the university confirmed.

She had started as an academic counselor in athletics at UNCW in January of this year. The separation occurred during Bridger’s probationary period, said UNCW spokeswoman Janine Iamunno.

UNCW did not specify the reason for Bridger’s separation, except to say it was a personnel matter. It occurred on the same day as the release of the Wainstein report, which detailed nearly 20 years of fraudulent classes disproportionately populated by UNC athletes.

Bridger had worked in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes for seven years beginning in 2006. She was hired as a learning specialist and later became associate director, overseeing the football counseling staff.

She was one of 126 people interviewed by the team of investigators headed by Kenneth Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor.

In Wainstein’s report, Bridger said she learned about the so-called “paper classes” in African and Afro-American Studies, in which classes were not held and students were only responsible for a final paper. Bridger told the investigators that the counseling staff would call the AFAM department each term to find out which paper classes would be offered. Then, the counselors would facilitate athletes’ completion of the papers during study hall, she said. While she knew the papers were turned into Deborah Crowder, the department manager, Bridger said she “did not concern herself with whether Crowder was grading the papers.”

Wainstein’s report said Crowder was the mastermind behind a “shadow” curriculum in which more than 3,100 students and student athletes received good grades for classes that didn’t meet and had not faculty involvement.

UNC-CH officials said Wednesday they were taking steps to fire four employees and launch disciplinary review of five others. They have declined to name the nine employees, citing personnel privacy law. However, that law does allow the disclosure of a personnel matter in cases in which an institution’s integrity is at stake.

Oct 242014


October 22, 2014
By Richard Craver Winston-Salem Journal

The Wake Forest University School of Business said Wednesday that it is ending its full-time program for students pursuing master’s degrees in business administration, but will keep its part-time program aimed at working professionals, which offers classes at night and on weekends.

Admission to the full-time program ended with the current fall class. The full-time program will end in May 2016.
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At that time, the MBA programs will be offered in the evenings at the Winston Salem campus and evenings and Saturdays at its center in uptown Charlotte. All programs are aimed at students graduating in two years.

The full-time program has 98 students; the program for working professionals has 304 students.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Skordas said the center does not have data for how many students receive an employer subsidy to pay for their MBA degree.

Wake Forest’s MBA program for working professionals is ranked in the top 20 nationally by U.S. News & World Report.

The decision was based primarily on studies showing that “students and their employers prefer focusing on professional development that doesn’t interrupt careers,” Skordas said.

The school said that in the past five years, it has experienced double- and triple-digit growth in its pre-experience graduate programs and MBA programs for working professionals.

“Data shows that students prefer flexibly delivered programs that allow them to continue working, enrolling at twice the rate as traditional daytime MBA programs,” said Sherry Moss, Wake Forest MBA program professor and faculty area chairwoman.

The business school said it believes it is “the most prominent” business school to choose to end its daytime program.

Bob Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News & World Report, said he believes Wake Forest is correct in that assessment.

“It’s definitely somewhat radical from the traditional MBA approach to decide to not serve that element of students,” Morse said.

Charles Iacovou, who became the school’s dean July 1, said the decision was not an attempt at reducing expenses.

“In fact, we have plans for faculty growth, adding eight this year and more next year,” Iacovou said.

Iacovou said the business school’s faculty and staff will be reassigned as their daytime MBA program duties phase out. He said the school will accommodate those faculty and staff who need to work daytime hours for personal reasons.

Iacovou said that while Wake Forest is the first to end the full-time program, “we expect others will follow.”
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Oct 242014


Posted: Wednesday, October 22

By Margaret Moffett margaret.moffett@news-record.com

GREENSBORO — Nearly a month after the controversial arrests of three former UNCG employees, university officials still haven’t made public key documents in the case.

Administrators, including Chancellor Linda Brady, have said they want to release more information about photographers Chris English and David Wilson and their boss, Lyda Carpen.

They were fired Sept. 24 for allegedly working freelance jobs on UNCG time, then charged with a combined 22 felonies for falsifying time sheets.

Brady and others have said they can’t say more without violating personnel laws.

The News & Record, however, maintains that some information involving the university’s actions is a matter of public record and is being withheld by the university contrary to state statute. What’s more, UNCG officials could invoke a little-known state law and make the documents public anyway by claiming the release is “essential to maintaining the integrity” of the university.

“The university has been slow to acknowledge our records requests and even slower in responding to most of them,” Jeff Gauger, the newspaper’s editor and publisher, said Tuesday.

“Now, we believe it is using the personnel exception under the state public records law to shield records that can’t legally be construed as personnel records,” Gauger said.

On Tuesday, UNCG attorney Imogene Cathey asked the News & Record to delay publication of this article by one day to give officials more time to respond. The newspaper declined, citing its numerous requests for documents in the past four weeks and the silence that has followed many of those.

Cathey sent an email late Tuesday night explaining UNCG’s rationale for withholding the documents.

“The employees have appealed their terminations, and the grievance process will provide a fair and objective review of the decisions,” she wrote.

“It’s important to note that the employees are able to speak freely, but we are bound by laws of confidentiality.”

The issue has consumed the campus community and, increasingly, the larger community. It’s the subject of near-daily meetings of administrators, staff members and the UNCG Faculty Senate, which is circulating a petition asking Guilford County prosecutors to drop the case.

UNCG has defended the felony charges against Carpen, English and Wilson. On Friday, Brady called their alleged actions an “egregious misuse of university resources.”

Brady announced her retirement Monday, denying that the decision was related.

The News & Record first requested documents on Sept. 30, about a week after the firings and arrests.

The university provided some records, including the employees’ termination letters and the arrest reports, which provide most of what the public knows.

English and Wilson own a photography business, Artisan Images. They are accused of using state-owned cameras and computers to take and edit photographs for Artisan jobs. They’re also accused of doing freelance work on UNCG’s dime.

Carpen, a graphic designer who occasionally worked for Artisan, is accused of aiding and abetting that work.

But still more questions remain, including the most basic: What could these employees have done to justify criminal charges? And who started the investigation in the first place?

UNCG has failed to provided documents that could clarify those questions, including:

• A “departmental review” of University Relations conducted by Paul Mason, whom Brady hired April 1 as associate vice chancellor of marketing and strategic communication. Wilson, one of the photographers, had filed a complaint with UNCG’s human resources department about Mason.

This review could show the public whether the alleged freelance work interfered with the employees’ work for UNCG.

The News & Record believes a “departmental review” is not an employee review, which would be protected under state law.

Cathey said Tuesday night that state law “expressly states that personnel files are not subject to inspection (under state law) and personnel files encompass any employment-related or personal information gathered by the university.”

State law requires the university to black out confidential information in this document rather than withhold it.

• On Oct. 2, the News & Record requested documents showing who initiated the investigation. On Oct. 10, Cathey said UNCG can’t say because of personnel laws and the criminal investigation.

State law requires UNCG to provide the name, sex, age and address of the complaining witness. Mason is listed as the complaining witness in the arrest warrants for the three.

On Tuesday night, Cathey said Mason is listed as a witness simply because of his role as department leader.

“Another employee at the university reported the activity to university police,” she wrote.

“The university is not disclosing the reporting individual’s name because we feel strongly that we need to protect employees’ ability to anonymously report misdeeds such as the misuse of state resources.”

State law, however, provides only two reasons for withholding such information: protecting the safety of a complaining witness or compromising a criminal investigation, neither of which Cathey mentioned.

UNCG has failed to make other documents public in a timely manner, including:

• Emails among administrators about what led to the firings and arrests.

• Details of previous alleged criminal activity by UNCG employees and the university’s response.

Amanda Martin, an attorney who specializes in public records laws, said transparency is crucial when there are allegations of wrongdoing by public employees.

“It is important for us to understand not only what took place — in this case allegations of misappropriation of government resources — but also how it has been handled from a managerial standpoint,” said Martin, an attorney for the N.C. Press Association and Stevens Martin Vaughn and Tadych.

“We want to know whether problems are systemic and whether they have been fixed,” Martin said.

Oct 242014


By Julie Zauzmer October 23

Multiple cases of meningitis have been reported at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Katie Lawson, a university spokeswoman, said that she did not know the number of cases, but knew that more than one student was sick. She did not know when the illness was first reported on campus.

In a statement, the university’s health director, David McBride, said, “We have reached out to the organizations that are primarily affected with information about the condition and what to do in the event that they are feeling unwell.”

Lawson did not immediately provide information about which organizations were referred to in McBride’s statement. She said the university was focused on outreach to those groups and was not offering preventative medications — including vaccines or antibiotics — at this time.

According to the university’s Web site, all students are required by state law to be vaccinated against meningitis before enrolling or to sign a waiver indicating that they have chosen not to receive the vaccine.

Outbreaks of meningitis sickened multiple students at Princeton University and the University of California at Santa Barbara last year, prompting the schools to give thousands of students a vaccine not yet approved for general use in the United States.

In September, a Georgetown University sophomore died of the illness, which affects the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The university referred to the death of sophomore Andrea Jaime as an isolated case but offered preventative antibiotics to students who may have come in contact with Jaime.

The illness is spread through exchange of respiratory and throat secretions, meaning kissing, sharing drinks, and similar close contact.

McBride’s statement said that the confirmed and suspected cases at Maryland were viral meningitis, not the bacterial version of the illness. The cases at the other three universities were bacterial.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the viral version, though serious, is rarely fatal.

Oct 242014
October 24, 2014

By Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

West Virginia University on Thursday expelled three students who were charged with the most serious offenses following Saturday’s riots, and more expulsions and disciplinary actions are possible, university officials said.

University president E. Gordon Gee said students should be treated like adults when misbehavior occurs.

Those “three out of 33,000” students committed crimes including throwing rocks at police, setting things on fire or tearing things down, Mr. Gee said. If found not guilty of those crimes, he said they could be reinstated.

“Forgiveness is always a possibility,” Mr. Gee said.

The students were among 14 charged this week by local law enforcement agencies and are prohibited from university property and activities pending further proceedings under the conduct code, the university said in a news release. University officials would not identify the students.

Morgantown police Chief Ed Preston said, “There are additional charges that will be filed. What charges and to what extent — that’s undetermined at this point.”

New charges could lead to other expulsions or student conduct sanctions such as suspension or community service for those who commit lesser offenses, said Becky Lofstead, university assistant vice president for communications.

In the past five years, 60 students have been expelled for non-academic violations. This time, the school chose to take immediate action, she said.

Riots coordinated on social media began in Sunnyside, a student-populated area near campus, about 10:30 p.m. Saturday — hours after the Mountaineers’ big football win over Baylor — and spilled into at least one other neighborhood, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage and drawing several law enforcement agencies, some using pepper spray and tear gas to control crowds.

Morgantown police, the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office or university police arrested eight people, five of whom were students, mostly for public drunkenness or underage drinking during the riots. Two of those people were charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, and another with malicious burning. No one was charged with a felony, Chief Preston said. An additional 24 were cited.

Elijah Wellman, 20, was cited for disorderly conduct, police said. A university spokesman confirmed he is a fullback/​tight end on the WVU football team.

Neither athletic spokesman Michael Fragale nor Mr. Gee commented on his status or possible punishments.

Mr. Gee said he has enormous respect for students and, “I think our students expect when someone violates rules and regulations, they be handled accordingly.”

Since the riots, some students created a “Respectful Mountaineer” campaign on social media.

“It’s a way to say, ‘Let’s be respectful of our town and our university,’” Ms. Lofstead said.

About 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students hail from southwestern Pennsylvania, she said.

Chief Preston asks that anyone with information on people who committed crimes during the riots contact the Morgantown Police Department or the West Virginia University Department of Public Safety.

Oct 242014


By Jonnelle Marte October 22

There’s more to choosing a business school than its name. Unless your primary goal is to make as much money as possible.

Unlike undergraduate programs, where the schools producing the highest earners are often relatively unknown, the graduate schools with the highest-earning MBA grads are usually the ones with the biggest name recognition.

When ranked by median mid-career pay, the top schools are Stanford, Harvard Business School, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California- Berkeley, according to a report released Wednesday by PayScale.com.

When schools are ranked instead by early career pay, the order changes a bit but the same schools dominate the top of the list. Two schools — the University of Chicago and the University of Texas at Austin — crack the top 10, displacing Harvard and Columbia, which have higher earnings for mid-career graduates.

The strong correlation between brand recognition and pay doesn’t hold true for all graduate programs, says Katie Bardaro, director of analytics for Payscale.com. For most students, the degree and job earned will have a bigger effect on earnings than the school attended. (Consider, a public school teacher who graduated from Harvard likely won’t make much more than one who graduated from a public university.)

For instance, fewer colleges and universities will offer certain technical or scientific degrees. And often, lesser known state or public schools may end up being among the best known within a particular industry, such as engineering or physics, if they have large research grants that allow for more ambitious projects, Bardaro says.

MBA programs are much more commonly found on campuses across the country, she says, “so one of the things that makes people stand out is if they got their degree from this top tier institution.”

While there are, of course, many reasons for going back to school, earning potential can be especially important for people considering graduate school, where scholarships and grants are harder to come by than they are for undergraduate programs. People taking on debt need to consider how long it will take them to pay off those degrees, Bardaro says.

Students considering graduate school should ask current and former students what they learned and what they did after they graduated, she says. It also helps to talk to potential employers about how much a graduate degree matters for advancing at a particular company.