Mar 022015


FEB. 27, 2015

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors voted unanimously on Friday to close three academic centers, including a poverty center run by an outspoken critic of the state’s Republican leadership, setting off allegations of partisanship and academic censorship.

The vote took place at a raucous board meeting in Charlotte that was interrupted by protesters who broke into chants and stood to read texts in opposition. The board was reportedly forced to move to a separate room to conclude its business.

Board members who recommended the closings maintain that the move was not political so much as practical. Jim Holmes, a board member who led an advisory panel that recommended the closings, argued that the centers were not producing much work or stimulating multidisciplinary research.

The closings were part of a broad review of the university system’s 240 boards and institutes, begun after lawmakers asked the board to consider redirecting some of the centers’ funding to other academic areas.

“We went through a very thorough, objective process,” Mr. Holmes said in a phone interview on Friday. “Just because it’s not popular doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.”

But critics saw a partisan move by a board dominated by members appointed by the Republican-controlled state legislature, particularly when it came to the closing of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, affiliated with the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill.

The center’s director, Gene Nichol, a law professor, has been an outspoken critic of the state’s Republican leaders, including Gov. Pat McCrory, in columns he has written for a Raleigh-based newspaper, The News & Observer.

In a statement on Friday, Mr. Nichol said the board was engaging in “state-sponsored censorship” and punishing him for publishing “articles that displease the board and its political benefactors.”

“Were I to have praised the legislature’s war on poor people, rather than decrying it, the board would have placed laurels on my head instead of boots on my neck,” he said.

John Charles Boger, the law school dean, issued a statement defending the center’s work. He also argued that the board had closed the poverty center because it disapproved of Mr. Nichol’s “writings and speeches.”

“That motive contravenes core principles of academic free speech and inquiry,” Mr. Boger said.

Also set to close are North Carolina Central University’s Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change and East Carolina University’s Center for Biodiversity. The civic engagement institute’s director, Jarvis A. Hall, said the board’s reasons seemed to be ever-changing. “It seems to me that there appears to be a political motivation,” he said.

Heather Vance-Chalcraft, director of outreach at the biodiversity center, said its basic work would continue under another name, and with some bureaucratic reordering.

None of the three centers receive direct taxpayer funding.

The moves are being passionately followed in a state with robust liberal and conservative factions, but where conservatives hold sway in the government. In recent months, liberal North Carolinians have staged a series of large-scale protests against the legislature’s ambitious conservative agenda.

They are particularly concerned that the board of governors is bringing a partisan agenda to the University of North Carolina system, which has a national reputation for excellence but a reputation among some of the state’s conservatives as a bastion of left-wing groupthink. Francis X. De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, has said that some of the academic centers in the system are geared more toward advocacy than education.

Mr. Nichol said in his statement that the “censorship efforts” had prompted a number of foundations and private donors to “assure that the work of the center, if not the center itself, will continue and markedly expand.”

Mr. Nichol’s tone was defiant and, at times, pugnacious.

“North Carolinians are not easily cowered,” he said. “They react poorly to petty tyrants. They always have.”

Mar 022015


The University of North Carolina system’s governing board has unanimously approved a proposal to close a center on poverty at the Chapel Hill flagship, a move critics have called politically motivated, The Charlotte Observer reports.

The controversial vote capped a Friday meeting that was briefly derailed by student protests. The interruption prompted the Board of Governors to relocate to another room that the protesters were barred from entering.

The proposal to close the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity attracted controversy immediately after a working group advanced it last week. Supporters on the board argued that an advocacy organization should not be associated with an academic institution, while critics alleged the proposal was political. Gene R. Nichol, the center’s director, has long been a vocal critic of the state’s Republican leadership.

The American Association of University Professors urged the board earlier this week not to approve the closure.

The board also closed two other centers, one on biodiversity at East Carolina University and one on civic engagement at North Carolina Central University.

Mar 022015


By Andrew Dunn and Jane Stancill

February 27, 2015

CHARLOTTE — As nearby protesters chanted slogans about freedom and democracy, the UNC Board of Governors voted Friday to close three university-based centers as part of a sweeping review of institutes across public campuses in North Carolina.

The decision was condemned by faculty members, who called it an attack on academic freedom and a blow to the university system’s national reputation. The three centers focus on poverty, the environment and voter engagement; the leader of one of the centers, a well-known liberal, has been a vocal critic of the state’s Republican leadership. The UNC board members are almost all Republicans.

Jim Holmes, the board member who led the review, repeatedly said the process was about making the system work better. Centers singled out for closing didn’t require that structure to do their work, he said.

“We would not be doing our job if we didn’t run a fair, objective, honest process,” he said. “I can assure every person on this board that’s exactly what we did without any prejudice toward any center or institute.”

After the unanimous vote, taken at UNC Charlotte, three campus-based centers must shut down by Sept. 1: The Center on Work, Poverty and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill; East Carolina University’s Center for Biodiversity; and N.C. Central University’s Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change.

The board also directed further study of 13 other centers, after a five-month review of 240 centers and institutes across the UNC system.

The outcry among the state’s academics has focused on the Poverty Center in Chapel Hill. Gene Nichol, its director, writes frequent opinion columns in The News & Observer, rebuking policies of the Republican majority in Raleigh. The center was created in 2005, spearheaded by former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, after his failed run as the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate.

Even though it’s closing, Nichol said he would continue to work on poverty issues as part of the UNC law school, thanks to a new fund that will be created with donations from private donors and foundations. He called the vote “a dark day for the University of North Carolina” but said the board’s “censorship efforts” had led to an outpouring of support for his work on poverty.

“We will carry forward the work of the Center within the halls of the university, but with greater flexibility and increased resources,” he said in a statement. “North Carolinians are not easily cowered. They react poorly to petty tyrants. They always have. If the Board of Governors moves to block the creation of such a research fund – a turn that is not unlikely – I will be anxious to join them in federal court.”

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, who attended Friday’s meeting, said she disagreed with the decision to close the Poverty Center. She said it’s critical to be clear that the university protects academic freedom.

“What the faculty and students, I believe, are saying is that they are very fearful that this decision is having a chilling effect on their work and diverse perspectives on the area of poverty,” she said.

Board of Governors member Hannah Gage said she felt the vote moved too far into management of individual campuses.

“We clearly have the powers to intervene at any point. The question is knowing when to use them,” she said. “Historically, we have been very judicious about when we use them.”

Later in the day at Chapel Hill, the UNC Faculty Council passed resolutions supporting the Poverty Center and the current policy stating that the management of centers is a campus decision. The council also backed a systemwide faculty group’s resolution calling on the Board of Governors to explain its rationale for forcing the early retirement of UNC President Tom Ross.

Hassan Melehy, a French professor at UNC, said the board appears to want to prohibit advocacy and political expression by faculty.

“The thing that’s most disturbing about this is how clearly it seems – circumstantial evidence suggests very, very strongly – that it’s directed against certain types of speech,” he said of the decision to abolish the Poverty Center. “There may have been some vindictiveness here.”

Closings defended

Friday’s vote came weeks after a Board of Governors working group released a report detailing a review of all UNC-system centers. Holmes said the panel quickly validated the vast majority of campus-based institutes.

Eight centers decided to close on their own. One center in particular – the Carolina Women’s Center at UNC-Chapel Hill – was cited as needing additional investment.

Holmes said the review gave the Board of Governors a new understanding of the work being done in centers and institutes and a greater appreciation of how important they are.

“There was nothing but following a process,” he said. “I know most people aren’t going to believe that.”

Board Chairman John Fennebresque wrote in an opinion piece that the board concluded the Poverty Center had not made “any appreciable impact on the issue.”

“We also felt the center did not enhance the educational mission of the university, did not work across disciplines to effect change, and did not have the financial support to sustain it – the same criteria used to evaluate all 240 centers,” Fennebresque wrote.

The Poverty Center receives no direct state funding and is supported by foundation grants.

Some applauded the board’s move to abolish centers. Anne Neal, president of the conservative-leaning American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said the UNC review was in keeping with a report last year by 22 civic and educational leaders who concluded that there were limits to what institutions can and should do.

“The board’s oversight should offer a model for boards across the country,” Neal said in a statement.

Loud student protests

The vote came over a chorus of boos from outside the meeting room.

As discussion began, protesters interrupted the meeting with chants. Several stood up and read statements against the board’s pending action. Fennebresque repeatedly told the protesters to sit down; a few were escorted out by police.

The meeting was then moved into a separate, smaller room, with protesters barred from entering. An audio/video feed was set up for them in another room. Board leaders said they were following state law on public meetings, but others questioned the maneuver.

Amanda Martin, general counsel to the N.C. Press Association, said the board’s move from a large room to one that didn’t accommodate the public violated the state’s Open Meetings Law.

“What’s at play here is a public body going to great lengths to exclude members of the public, and that is not permitted under the law,” she said.

Providing a video feed at another location does not live up the legal standard for a public meeting – especially in a situation in which a meeting is held in a small room for the purposes of quelling dissent, she said.

“Attendance and observation are two different things,” Martin said. “The Open Meetings Law says any person is allowed to attend.”

UNC system President Tom Ross said the decision was made because the protesters intended to put a stop to the meeting.

“The board needs to be able to conduct its business,” he said. “It was a public meeting, and it stayed a public meeting.”

Ted Shaw, director of UNC law school’s Center for Civil Rights, applauded the student protesters for their activism. The Center for Civil Rights has been slated for further review, and some board members have questioned whether it should be allowed to sue other branches of government.

“These students were magnificent,” Shaw said, “and acting within a great tradition that makes us proud.

“This is one of these defining moments about our values, and who and what we are,” Shaw told the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council. “But it’s also an opportunity. The rest of the state is watching. Higher education is watching, public and private. And we know, because we’ve seen the articles, that the nation is watching.”

Mar 022015


March 2, 2015
By Scott Jaschik

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors voted Friday — against strong protests from faculty members — to kill three research centers at the university system.

Tensions between faculty and the system’s board have escalated in the wake of the vote, especially at the flagship at Chapel Hill. Protesters spoke out during the board meeting and the actual vote took place in a small room where board members went after the protests continued.

Critics said the action was a political attack on scholarly work that conservatives don’t like — and on a scholar whom they don’t like. The three centers are: a poverty center at the Chapel Hill campus, a biodiversity center at East Carolina University and a civic engagement and social change center at North Carolina Central University. The poverty center is led by Gene Nichol, a law professor who has repeatedly accused state leaders of failing to deal with poverty and of taking steps that discourage voting by black and low-income North Carolinians.

Nichol vowed, after Friday’s vote, to continue his work with private support and without an official center behind it. If the board tries to block him, he said, he will sue. While board members haven’t commented on that development, they defended their vote to kill the centers.

In a column in The News & Observer, John Fennebresque, the board chair, wrote that the decisions were justified and not political. Of the poverty center, which has attracted the most attention, Fennebresque wrote that the board “concluded the center was unable to demonstrate any appreciable impact on the issue of poverty. We also felt the center did not enhance the educational mission of the university, did not work across disciplines to effect change and did not have the financial support to sustain it.”

Supporters of the center cited books published under its auspices, lectures, speeches, columns and more — and noted that Republican politicians have regularly criticized it for in fact having an influence on public policy.

Jack Boger, dean of the law school at Chapel Hill, issued a statement in which he cited the scholarly and teaching record of the center and went on to say that he did not believe the board members who claimed to be making an apolitical decision. He and others have noted that the center has operated in recent years without state funds, so there is no evidence that this move will save money.

“It is evident, then, that the [board] closed this center, neither because it has failed to serve an educational purpose nor for any failure to carry out a serious scholarly agenda nor because the center is redundant,” the dean wrote. “Instead, the [board] has surely closed this center because it does not approve the writings and speeches of Professor Gene Nichol, who speaks and writes on poverty in North Carolina with unsparing candor. That motive contravenes core principles of academic free speech and inquiry. It threatens First Amendment values. It is a sad day for the great University of North Carolina, witnessing as its current Board of Governors yield to pressures that besmirch the University of North Carolina’s wonderful reputation, justly earned over the past century, for forthrightly exploring societal issues of greatest importance to the state, the region and the nation.”

The Faculty Council at Chapel Hill on Friday adopted a resolution stating that oversight of centers (and decisions about their continuation) should rest with campuses, not the system board.

Nichol released a statement Friday afternoon about grant support he obtained to carry on the center’s work. “The fund will allow us to hire student, faculty and postdoctorate scholars to assist me in probing the causes of, and solutions to, economic injustice. We will carry forward the work of the center within the halls of the university, but with greater flexibility and increased resources,” he said. “North Carolinians are not easily cowered. They react poorly to petty tyrants. They always have. If the Board of Governors moves to block the creation of such a research fund — a turn that is not unlikely — I will be anxious to join them in federal court.”

He added that the board had made it clear that those who criticize Republican politicians face punishments. “These acts of state-imposed censorship, of course, constitute a core violation of the First Amendment,” Nichol said. “Lying about the motive for closure does nothing to assuage the transgression. The board’s laughable charade of independent, merit-based ‘centers review’ has fooled no one. Dishonest censorship is no improvement over straightforward suppression.”

Mar 022015


Published: Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 11:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 11:30 p.m.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ plan to shut down a poverty study center run by an outspoken law professor and two other independent centers on UNC campuses might not be the conservative-led witch hunt some observers believe. But neither is it about saving the taxpayers money, or improving our public universities’ mission.

Three institutes were recommended for closure, all associated with perceived “liberal” causes: the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity; a civic engagement institute at N.C. Central University; and the biodiversity center at East Carolina University. The UNC Civil Rights Center also remains under review.

From the first mandate from the General Assembly to study institutes on UNC campuses, word was out that the main target would be the poverty center, whose director, law professor Gene Nichol, has been a lightning rod. His unabashed criticism of Republican policy in North Carolina raised hackles in GOP circles.

Board members say it’s not about Nichol. They cite a study that concluded the three centers did little meaningful work, were underfunded and had no meaningful impact on poverty. But the dean of the UNC law school, 64 law professors and many law students disagree, saying the center has provided valuable training as well as spotlighting the poverty problem in North Carolina. They say the board’s action is a blow to academic freedom and the university’s overall mission.

A bigger worry for the board and UNC system should be how this action will affect the university’s national reputation, which has been stellar. A governing board seen as being on an ideological pursuit may do far more harm than the professor whose comments annoy or anger state officials. UNCW learned that lesson when it denied tenure to Mike Adams, a criminology and sociology professor who has been outspoken about what he perceives as liberal suppression of conservative speech on campus. It cost the university $50,000 to the professor and $615,000 in attorney fees and court costs.

Many people may question why universities need centers that focus on these “outside” problems. After all, the current emphasis is on training students for specific jobs. Such a narrow view diminishes the importance of our state universities, whose impact reaches far beyond the campus boundaries.

As Law School Dean Jack Boger noted in a written statement, “In prior decades, the University of North Carolina won the hearts and the gratitude of the state’s people by combatting the scourges of peonage and child labor, of woefully inadequate medical care and appallingly bad public education. These earlier faculty-led initiatives drew fierce opposition from those who managed to benefit from others’ poverty and oppression.”

Board of Governors Chairman John Fenne­bresque admits poverty is a serious problem and says the university will continue to support work aimed at reducing it. Just not the poverty center’s work, which, again, was not state-funded. He is right that oversight and accountability are necessary. Rather than closing the center, however, the board could work to restructure it to bring together more of the work on that issue that is being done around the UNC campus.

When it comes down to it, the UNC board and the General Assembly have the power to do what they want to our state universities. But taxpayers who have helped build one of the most admired public university systems in the nation should be worried about its future.

Mar 022015


By Dan Kane
March 1, 2015

Michael Waddell had a low grade point average, no entrance exam score and was months past the deadline when an athletic official sought to have the football player admitted to UNC’s graduate school in fall 2003.

John Blanchard, then a senior associate athletic director, made the request after classes began, on Sept. 5, just as Waddell was about to be declared ineligible to play against Syracuse the following day, according to records obtained by The News & Observer.

The plea to admit Waddell went up to UNC’s provost, Robert Shelton. Email correspondence indicates Shelton saw no policy that would allow Waddell to enroll, but instead of telling him no, Shelton left it up to Linda Dykstra, the graduate school dean.

Dykstra admitted Waddell, who had already played in the season opener at Florida State. He would play against Syracuse and all but one of the other nine remaining games that season.

Waddell is one of several athletes UNC athletics officials sought to keep eligible to play by getting them into graduate school, according to Cheryl Thomas, the graduate school’s admissions director from 2002 to 2010. Thomas, 51, who no longer works in higher education, supplied documentation about Waddell to The N&O after first sending it to the NCAA and the agency that accredits the university.

Waddell, a cornerback and kick returner, would go on to have his fourth year of eligibility at UNC as a graduate student and attract the interest of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in the fourth round. But as a graduate student, Waddell skipped classes and exams, flunking out with four F’s, university correspondence shows.

Thomas told her superiors that Waddell should not be admitted and that officials at the Exercise and Sports Science Department knew he was not there to legitimately pursue a course of study.

“They know he has not applied and would not meet the minimum requirements for admission, yet the EXSS is willing to accept him as a non-degree seeking, one semester only, graduate student so his football eligibility will continue, if the (graduate school) will allow it,” Thomas wrote.

In an interview, Thomas said that roughly once a year during her eight years as admissions director, someone from the athletics department or the UNC administration would contact her with a request to find a place for an athlete. The last she received involved Justin Knox, a basketball player who had graduated from the University of Alabama in 2010 but still had one more season of eligibility.

Waddell and Knox are the only athletes she recalls by name. She said she does not know whether any of the other athletes were admitted over her objections. That includes one unnamed athlete she cited in a 2003 email about Waddell’s case.

A review of UNC’s football and men’s basketball team rosters since the 2000-01 academic year shows Waddell and Knox as the only graduate students.

Knox was admitted to UNC after the graduate school deadline, and while a former UNC professor said he was a good student, Knox also left after his college eligibility was used up. He did not receive a degree and left to play basketball in Europe.

Thomas said her unwillingness to toe the line over such admissions, along with other unrelated management concerns, put her at odds with her supervisors. She resigned in 2010 after nearly 22 years as a university employee.

She said admitting unqualified athletes to highly competitive graduate school programs so they can continue playing is fundamentally wrong. UNC’s graduate school typically rejects about two-thirds of the roughly 15,000 students who apply each year.

“You can’t turn down thousands of people and say yes to one just so he can play basketball,” she said.

Pressure from athletics

Thomas’ assertions, bolstered by the correspondence in Waddell’s case, could raise new issues for a university already struggling with what is believed to be the biggest academic scandal in NCAA history. The troubles within the African studies department involved fake classes that brought high grades for little work and were hatched after pressure from counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes.

Former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein’s critical report on the scandal caused Thomas to come forward. Shortly after his report came out in October, she sent the correspondence regarding Waddell to Wainstein, the NCAA and the commission that accredits UNC. She said all acknowledged receiving the correspondence, but after nearly three months with no further contact, she reached out to The News & Observer in January.

Waddell’s case points to an issue rarely discussed in college sports – the use of graduate school programs to extend an athlete’s eligibility. There’s far more attention placed on athletes’ qualifications to be admitted as undergraduates and on their academic work toward a bachelor’s degree.

Some athletes who have graduated have a fourth year of athletic eligibility left because they were held out of competition – called redshirting – for a year to recover from an injury or improve in practice.

Waddell, however, had been required to sit out his freshman year because his standardized test score and high school grade point average made him a “partial qualifier” by NCAA standards, according to a 2003 N&O story. That meant he would have only three years of eligibility as an undergraduate but could gain a fourth by entering grad school.

Waddell’s correspondence shows he and an athletics official used the graduate school to keep him eligible to play after he learned he couldn’t continue taking undergraduate classes after graduating with an African studies degree in summer 2003. It is unclear whether Waddell took any of the fake classes offered during that time, but the 2003 N&O story notes him taking an “independent study” AFAM class that summer.

Two of the people involved in the Waddell case have ties to sports at UNC. Kevin Guskiewicz, a professor and director of the Exercise and Sports Science’s graduate studies program in 2003, is a nationally known expert on sports-related concussions, which have emerged as a major problem in football. He was named a senior associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2013.

Shelton, the former provost, left UNC in 2006 to become president of the University of Arizona. Five years later, he became the Fiesta Bowl’s executive director. He left last year to lead the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, a foundation based in Tucson.

Guskiewicz said he would not talk about Waddell, citing the federal Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which keeps many student education records private. Shelton said he did not recall the case but said he would not have sought to admit an athlete to graduate school so he could continue playing.

Extensive efforts to reach Waddell for comment were unsuccessful.

Skipping classes, exams

The correspondence about Waddell’s graduate school admission shows it created serious problems for the Exercise and Sports Science Department. And in a scathing letter dated Jan. 21, 2004, Guskiewicz let Blanchard know it.

“As you know, (department chairman) Fred Mueller and I ‘went out on a limb’ to try and help an unfortunate situation – whereby Michael was evidently misinformed by your office that he could enroll in the Sport Administration Graduate Program so that he could be enrolled as a student-athlete at UNC-CH. He was about to be declared ineligible the day before the Syracuse game when you approached me about how we might help.

“After several discussions with you, the Dean’s office, and faculty in our department, we sent the letter requesting a special admit (something we have never done before) with the understanding that Michael would live up to his end of the bargain – attending classes regularly, handing in all assignments, and making every effort possible to succeed in the classes.”

But according to the letter, by midsemester Guskiewicz and others in the department realized Waddell wasn’t attending classes and had missed “at least one exam, but were told it was being addressed.”

Waddell continued to miss classes and exams and did not turn in assignments needed to pass the classes, the letter says.

“We were willing to accept Michael Waddell and his very marginal undergraduate GPA because we believed that helping a student, and a group of colleagues in the Athletic Department was the right thing to do at the time,” Guskiewicz wrote. “Four months later, we now look foolish.”

He said Waddell’s failing grades pulled down the department’s annual GPA, and he vowed he would “no longer threaten our department’s integrity by this sort of arrangement.”

“As a result, we have raised the bar a level higher for this year’s applicants to the program, and hope that this will reflect our commitment to excellence in the eyes of the Graduate School,” Guskiewicz wrote.

‘Very sad situation’

Blanchard was a senior associate athletic director at UNC until he retired in 2013. By then, he had emerged as a key figure in the academic scandal, by virtue of his role as the de facto leader of the athletes’ academic support program.

The Wainstein report found the academic support program steered athletes to classes that had no instruction and provided high grades. Athletes made up half of the enrollments in the classes. Blanchard told investigators he knew they didn’t meet, but he did not know there was no instructor. Blanchard could not be reached for comment.

Linda Dykstra was the graduate school dean at the time of Waddell’s admission. In an emailed response, she described it as “this very sad situation in which several individuals were misled by the stated intentions of an applicant to the Graduate School.”

She did not explain why she allowed him to enter. She and Steve Matson, the current graduate school dean, said academic departments have different criteria for admission and can request exceptions to allow for a late application, or low or no GRE score. Typically in those cases, other factors compensate, such as work experience or a bachelor’s degree in a difficult field.

Dykstra acknowledged those examples did not explain Waddell’s situation.

University is mum

In spring 2010, basketball coach Roy Williams suddenly needed help in the frontcourt after big men Travis and David Wear opted to transfer to UCLA. He recruited 6-foot-9 Justin Knox, who had grown dissatisfied playing for Alabama in his first three years and wanted to transfer.

That would typically require sitting out a year, but Knox got around that hurdle by collecting his bachelor’s degree a year early. He could then transfer and play immediately as a graduate student at another school.

Thomas, the former graduate school admissions director, said she got a call to make an exception for Knox, who applied past the admissions deadline. She does not have records involving Knox’s enrollment.

Thomas said Matson, who replaced Dykstra as dean of the graduate school in 2008, let Knox enroll in the Exercise and Sport Science’s sports management program. Matson would not talk about Knox, citing the federal privacy law.

Richard Southall is a former professor in the Exercise and Sports Science Department who handled Knox’s graduate admission. Southall is also director of a research institute that scrutinizes college sports, and he has criticized big money’s influence on college sports.

He confirmed Knox missed the application deadline. But he said Knox was a good enough student to be admitted and did the work while he was enrolled. According to a Tuscaloosa News report on May 4, 2010, Knox had a 3.6 GPA in business management at the time he was seeking to transfer, and was a salutatorian of his high school class.

Southall could not recall whether Knox had taken the GRE. “He did all the coursework, attended all the classes,” Southall said. “It was actually one of those cases that he did a much better job than what the expectation was of what he was going to do.”

Knox, who plays basketball in a Puerto Rican league, could not be reached. A UNC spokesman said Williams declined to comment.

Two professors with expertise in college sports matters – Bruce Svare at the State University of New York at Albany and Matt Mitten at Marquette University – say lowering the bar to admit athletes to graduate school so they can play another season could pose NCAA issues. Both cited NCAA regulations related to academic integrity in admissions, while Svare also said Waddell’s case raises the possibility of an extra benefit that nonathletes may have been denied.

The NCAA is investigating the fake class scandal. A UNC spokesman, Rick White, referred all questions to Matson and Guskiewicz.

If such an admission is contrary to the university’s policies, UNC could also have to answer to its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The commission is also investigating the academic scandal. Its president, Belle Wheelan, said a university can face a sanction for not following its admissions policies, which had been approved by the commission for having academic integrity.

Thomas did hear from the NCAA, through Rick Evrard, a lawyer hired by UNC to handle NCAA matters. The NCAA forwarded her concerns to him, and he wrote her on Feb. 6.

“NCAA Associate Director of Enforcement Kathy Sulentic has forwarded to me information that she received from you regarding possible NCAA rules violations,” Evrard wrote. “The University and the NCAA are currently involved in a joint investigation concerning possible NCAA rules violations and the information you submitted is a part of that investigation.”

Athletes in graduate school

One way some college athletes have gained an additional season of eligibility that had been lost through redshirting is by entering graduate school.

The N&O asked UNC, N.C. State and Duke how many graduate students had played football or men’s basketball since 2002. Duke declined to answer. UNC and NCSU have not replied.

Here are some well-known examples of graduate students who played big-time sports:

• Russell Wilson. The Seattle Seahawks star quarterback still had a year of eligibility when he graduated from N.C. State in 2011. He entered the University of Wisconsin as a graduate student and played for the Badgers.

Did he graduate? No.

He left after attending the university’s Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis program from Summer 2011 through Spring 2012. He has played in two Super Bowls for the Seahawks, winning one.

• Greg Paulus. The former Duke University point guard graduated in 2009 and then made the switch to football to play quarterback at Syracuse University as a graduate student. Since he had already used four years of eligibility playing basketball at Duke, he received a waiver from the NCAA to play football.

Did he graduate? Yes.

He received a master’s degree in Television, Radio and Film in August 2010. He is now an assistant men’s basketball coach at Ohio State.

• Jeremiah Masoli. The University of Oregon quarterback left in 2010, after a theft case that cost him a spot on the roster. He joined Ole Miss for the 2010-11 season as a graduate student.

Did he graduate? No.

He attended as a Parks & Recreation student from August to December 2010. He is now playing in the Canadian Football League.

• Mike Glennon. The N.C. State quarterback earned his bachelor’s degree and then became a grad student there for his fourth and final season in 2012.

Did he graduate? Yes.

He received a master’s degree in Liberal Studies in December 2012. He is now playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

How Waddell got in

A chronology of events in football player Michael Waddell’s admission to UNC’s graduate school:

August 1999

Waddell is admitted to UNC as a “partial qualifier,” which means he will have to sit out his freshman year to improve his academics, giving him three years of eligibility as an undergraduate. He could gain a fourth season as a graduate student.

July 13, 2003

In an N&O story, Waddell says he is coming back for a fourth season by completing his undergraduate degree in the summer and then enrolling in the fall as a graduate student.

Sept. 3, 2003

Graduate school admissions director Cheryl Thomas tells Linda Dykstra, the graduate school dean, in an email that Waddell is seeking admission to graduate school so he can play a fourth season.

Sept. 5, 2003

The Exercise and Sports Science Department requests that Dykstra admit Waddell as a “non-degree seeking graduate student” for the fall, saying the athletics department “misinformed” Waddell about how to gain entry. Dykstra accepts the request.

Dec. 30, 2003

Dykstra tells Waddell in a letter that he has been kicked out of grad school because of poor grades.

Jan. 21, 2004

Mar 022015


Posted 5:51 a.m. today

Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina State University police said Monday they were investigating a report of a sexual assault at a fraternity house.

Police say the victim was sexually assaulted at a party at the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity House, at 1402 Varsity Drive, early Sunday.

No other details were released. Anyone with information is asked to call university police at 919-515-3000.

Mar 022015


FEB. 27, 2015

It started with a wine cooler, said Paige Cederna, describing that first sweet, easy-to-down drink she experienced as a “magic elixir.”

“I had no inhibitions with alcohol,” said Ms. Cederna, 24. “I could talk to guys and not worry about anyone judging me. I remember being really proud the day I learned to chug a beer. I couldn’t get that feeling fast enough.” But before long, to get over “that feeling,” she was taking Adderall to get through the days.

But it was now more than three years since she drank her last drop of alcohol and used a drug for nonmedical reasons. Her “sober date,” she told the group, many nodding their heads encouragingly, was July 8, 2011.

Ms. Cederna’s story of addiction and recovery, told in a clear, strong voice, was not being shared at a 12-step meeting or in a treatment center. Instead, it was presented on a cool autumn day, in a classroom on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, to a group of 30 undergraduate students in their teens and early 20s.

On the panel with Ms. Cederna were two other Michigan graduate students. Hannah Miller, 27, declared her “sober date” as Oct. 5, 2010, while Ariel Britt, 29, announced hers as Nov. 6, 2011. Like Ms. Cederna’s, Ms. Britt’s problems with drugs and alcohol started in her freshman year at Michigan, while Ms. Miller’s began in high school. All three are participants in a university initiative, now two years old, called the Collegiate Recovery Program.

Staying sober in college is no easy feat. “Pregaming,” as it is called on campus (drinking before social or sporting events), is rampant, and at Michigan it can start as early as 8 a.m. on a football Saturday. The parties take place on the porches and lawns of fraternities, the roofs and balconies of student houses, and clandestinely in dormitories — everywhere but inside the academic buildings.

For this reason — because the culture of college and drinking are so synonymous — in September 2012 the University of Michigan joined what are now 135 Collegiate Recovery communities on campuses all over the country. While they vary in size from small student-run organizations to large embedded university programs, the aim is the same: to help students stay sober while also thriving in college.

“It shouldn’t be that a young person has to choose to either be sober or go to college,” said Mary Jo Desprez, who started Michigan’s Collegiate Recovery Program as the director of Michigan’s Wolverine Wellness department. “These kids, who have the courage to see their problem early on, have the right to an education, too, but need support,” she said, calling it a “social justice, diversity issue.” Matthew Statman, the full-time clinical social worker who has run Michigan’s program since it began in 2012, added, “We want them to feel proud, not embarrassed, by their recovery.”

At the panel presentation, Ms. Britt, who temporarily dropped out of Michigan as an undergraduate, shared with the students her anxiety when she finally sobered up and decided to return to campus. “I had so many memories of throwing up in bushes here,” she said. “I wanted to have fun, but I also had no idea how to perform without partying.”

Ms. Cederna also remembers what it felt like to return to Michigan sober her senior year. Not only did she lose most of her friends (“Everyone I knew on campus drank,” she said), but she also dropped out of her sorority (“I was only in it to drink,” she said). “I ended up alone in the library a lot watching Netflix,” she said. Molly Payton, 24 (now a senior who once fell off an eight-foot ledge, drunk and high at a party), said, “I read all the Harry Potter books alone in my room my first months clean.”

Everything changed, however, when these students learned there were other students facing the same issues. Ms. Cederna first found Students for Recovery, a small student-run organization that, until the Collegiate Recovery Program began, was the only available support group on Michigan’s campus besides local 12-step meetings, most of which tend toward an older demographic.

“Through S.F.R., I ended up having five new friends,” she said of the organization, which still exists but is now run by the 25 to 30 Collegiate Recovery Program students; both groups meet every other week in the health center. The main difference between the two is that students in the Collegiate Recovery Program have to already be sober and sign a “commitment contract” that they will stay clean throughout college through a well-outlined plan of structure. Students for Recovery is aimed at those who are still seeking recovery, may be further into their recovery or want to support others in recovery.

When a young student incredulously asked the panel, “How do you possibly socialize in college without alcohol?” Ms. Britt, Collegiate Recovery Program’s social chairwoman, rattled off a list of its activities — sober tailgates, a pumpkin-carving night, volleyball games, dance parties, study groups, community service projects and even a film screening of “The Anonymous People” that attracted some 600 students. “But we also just hang out together a lot,” she said.

Indeed, looking around the organization’s lounge just before the holidays (a small, cordoned-off corner on the fourth floor of the health center, minimally decorated with ratty couches, a table and a small bookshelf stocking titles like “Wishful Drinking” and “Smashed”), it was hard to believe some of these young adults were once heroin addicts who had spent time in jail. On the contrary, they looked like model students, socializing over soft drinks and snacks as they celebrated one student who had earned back his suspended license.

“By far the biggest benefit to our students in the recovery program is the social component,” said Mr. Statman, who is hoping a current development campaign may provide more funding. (The program is currently supported by a mandatory student health tuition fee.) “Let’s just say, we all wish we could be Texas Tech,” he said.

The Collegiate Recovery Program was established at Texas Tech decades ago, and it is now one of the largest, with 120 recovery students enrolled (along with Rutgers University and Augsburg College in Minneapolis). Thanks to a $3 million endowment, the Texas Tech program now offers scholarships as well as substance-free trips abroad. The students there have access to an exclusive lounge outfitted with flat-screen TVs, a pool table and a Ping-Pong table, kitchen, study carrels and a seminar room. Entering freshmen in recovery even have their own dormitory.

“We found that simply putting them on the substance-free halls didn’t work,” said Kitty Harris, who, until recently, was the director for more than a decade of Texas Tech’s program (she remains on the faculty). “Most of the kids on substance-free floors are just there to make their parents happy.” (The Michigan students in the recovery program mostly live off campus for the same reason; they do not have their own housing.)

“Most students begin experimenting innocently in college with drugs and alcohol,” said Mr. Statman, who just celebrated his 13th year in recovery. “Then there are the ones who react differently. They are not immoral, pleasure-seeking hedonists, they are simply vulnerable, and for their whole life.”

Rates of substance-use disorders triple from 5.2 percent in adolescence to 17.3 percent in early adulthood, according to 2013 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It thus makes this developmental stage critical to young people’s future.

It is at the drop-in Students for Recovery meetings where one often sees nervous new faces. At the beginning of one meeting at Michigan last semester, a young woman introduced herself as, “One day sober.” Shortly afterward, a young man spoke up, “I am five days sober.” Danny (who asked that his last name not be published), a graduating recovery program senior applying to medical schools, later explained an important tenet all of them know from their various 12-step programs. “The most important person in the room is the new person,” he said, adding that after the Students for Recovery meetings, members try to approach any new participants, directing them to the C.R.P. website and to Mr. Statman, who is always on call for worried students.

“In the same way a diabetic might not always get their sugar levels right, part of addiction is relapsing, and we really don’t want our students to see that as a failure if it happens,” said Mr. Statman, adding that it is often the other students in the program who tell him if they suspect a student is using again.

Jake Goldberg, 22, now a junior, arrived at Michigan three years ago as a freshman already in recovery. “I did really well the first five months,” he said. “I was sober. I was loud and proud on panels, but I had internal reservations. I had few friends and felt like I wanted to be more a part of the school.” He recalled that in the spring of his freshman year, he suddenly found himself trying heroin for the first time. “I should have died,” he said, remembering how he woke up 14 hours later, dazed and bruised.

After straightening up, Mr. Goldberg relapsed again his sophomore year when he thought he might be able to have just one drink. “That drink led to drugs and to more drinking,” he said, remembering how Mr. Statman and Ms. Desprez called him into their office one day. “They told me this is not going to end well,” he said. Now sober two years, Mr. Goldberg said: “I now live recovery with all the structure, but I also am in a prelaw fraternity. When they drink a beer, I drink a Red Bull.”

Ms. Miller echoed Mr. Goldberg’s feelings over coffee one day on the Michigan campus. “Most of us did not get sober just to go to meetings all the time,” she said. “We want to live life too.” She also said that socializing with nonrecovery students is still challenging. “I went to a small party recently where everyone was eating pot edibles and drinking top-shelf liquor,” she said. “I got a bit squirrely in my head and had to leave.”

But now students in the Collegiate Recovery Program have a new place in Ann Arbor they can frequent: Brillig Dry Bar, a pop-up, alcohol-free spot that serves up spiced pear sodas and cranberry sours and features live jazz. And in March, four of the students in the program are joining dozens of recovery students from other colleges on a six-day, five-night, “Clean Break” in Florida, arranged by Blue Community, an organization that hosts events and vacations for young adults in recovery. (The vacation package includes music, guest speakers, beach sports and daily transport to local 12-step meetings.)

“My hope is that we continue to get more students who need a safe zone to our social events,” said Ms. Britt, who is about to publicize a “sober skating night” in March at the university ice rink. “They would see you can have a lot of fun in college without drinking.

“And honestly, we really do have fun.”