University News

This Week in Higher Ed: Oct. 29, 2014

By
University News Editor
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

UNC academic fraud scandal increased students’ athletic eligibility, report reveals

Administrators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released a report Oct. 22 that revealed new information about a two-decade-long academic fraud scheme involving the university’s varsity athletes. Student-athletes took fake classes in which they received high grades, raising their grade point averages above the 2.0 benchmark mandated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, multiple news outlets reported.

The scandal originally came to light in 2009, and the university has conducted numerous investigations. Last week’s report — conducted by a federal prosecutor on behalf of UNC — revealed that the fraud was much more widespread than previously believed. Deborah Crowder, a former administrator in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, and Julius Nyang’oro, former chair of the department, ran a “shadow curriculum” aimed at helping struggling students boost their grades­, the New York Times reported.

Between 1993 and 2011, when Crowder retired, more than 3,100 students enrolled in nonexistent classes in the African studies department. Nyang’oro became the professor who was supposedly teaching many of these courses when he became department chair, the Times reported.

The classes, referred to as “paper classes,” only required students to submit one paper over the course of the entire semester. The papers were graded to help students maintain the necessary GPA for NCAA eligiblity. More than 47 percent of the students in these courses were athletes. For 329 students, the report said, “the grade they received in a paper class provided the GPA boost that either kept or pushed their GPA. above the 2.0 level for a semester,” the Times reported. Most of the athletes played on the university’s football or basketball teams.

According to the report, the first semester during which “paper classes” were not offered, fall 2009, sported the lowest GPA for the football team in over a decade.

 

Professor suspended for ‘sighing,’  ‘negative vibes’ will return to university

A professor at the University of Warwick in England will likely be cleared of all charges after serving a nine-month suspension for giving off “negative vibes” among other accusations, the Telegraph reported Oct. 24.

The university banned Thomas Docherty, professor of English and comparative literature, from campus in January after compiling a case against him for “making ironic comments,” “projecting negative body language,” “inappropriate sighing” and “negative vibes,” the Telegraph reported. Docherty was also accused of undermining the authority of the former head of English at Warwick, Catherine Bates, who stepped down from her position earlier this year.

Doherty was banned from being on campus, serving as a reference for students, advising doctoral students and having any contact with undergraduates during his suspension, the Telegraph reported.

According to an Oct. 24 Facebook post on a page created by students upset by Docherty’s suspension, the professor was “deeply moved” by student support, the Telegraph reported.

 

New effort sheds light on low-income student college attendance rates

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charity organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and several other nonprofit groups announced Tuesday that they will begin a new effort to boost the rates of low-income high school students who attend college, the Times reported.

The initiative will involve the hiring of 130 full-time college counselors and over 4,000 college students as part-time advisers for low-income students, aiming to provide the same services that students at wealthier schools receive. The student advisers will use video chat and phone calls, among other tools, to guide high school students through the college application process and serve as a “support network,” the Times reported.

Today just one third of high-performing students from low-income households in America attend higher education institutions with high graduation rates. The coalition aims to increase this rate to 50 percent within five years, the Times reported.

“If we really believe that America is the world’s greatest meritocracy — and I do — then we can’t sit back and tolerate a situation where so many talented young people who have the grades to get into top colleges are not going to them,” Bloomberg wrote in an email to the Times.

On Monday, the group sent 24,000 students from low-income backgrounds with strong academic records emails, saying they would perform well at good colleges, the Times reported.

Many eligible students will receive waivers for college application fees.