CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Former Gov. Jim Martin will lead a newly created panel to address issues stemming from an internal investigation that found course irregularities in the African and Afro-American studies department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chancellor Holden Thorp announced Thursday.
Thorp said in a statement that Martin will lead an independent review of additional academic irregularities that may have occurred before 2007.
“Our focus every day remains on fixing the problems and ensuring they never happen again,” Thorp said.
Martin is a former Davidson College faculty member who served on faculty athletics and admissions committees. The former U.S. representative also serves on the Board of Directors of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy and as chairman and director of the Institute for Defense and Business based in Chapel Hill.
“He was very clear that there’s no restriction on what I can look into with the help of the firm that’s going to work with us on it,” Martin said. “In other words, he and I are both chemists. In science, we abide by the dictum that you follow the evidence.”
Martin also said the AFAM program should have been held in higher academic regard.
“Certainly, one department has been identified and that’s troubling because that subject matter needed to be treated with more respect than appears to be the case. That was troubling. It demeans the subject matter,” Martin said. “They’ve already corrected that. They have new people in charge with a new attitude and with, let’s call it, stronger academic discipline, and that’s good.”
Assisting Martin will be Virchow, Krause & Company, LLP, a national management consulting firm with experience in academic performance procedures and controls.
Thorp also appointed Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, to help UNC-Chapel Hill examine the future relationship between academics and athletics on campus.
The conclusions will be provided to a four-member panel of the UNC Board of Governors, which convened in July to review the school’s investigation of the AFAM irregularities. The school has also imposed stricter standards on independent study coursework, among other changes. He also mentioned that the school is implementing the recommendations made in four previous reviews, including a review of courses in the department and a report on the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes
In a letter to trustees, faculty and staff, Thorp outlined the changes implemented following the NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct in the football program, which began in June 2010. That probe ultimately led to the firing of coach Butch Davis last July, though Davis wasn’t cited for a violation when the NCAA penalized the program in March with a one-year bowl ban and 15 scholarship reductions over three years.
Thorp said the school was cooperating with the UNC board’s panel convened by UNC President Tom Ross that is looking into the campus investigation and response to determine if they have helped the school’s academic integrity and ensure the situation doesn’t occur again.
The ongoing investigation of the AFAM department is the result of the NCAA investigation.
“These issues that we face are serious, and we must resolve them,” Thorp said. “Nothing is more important than restoring integrity to this university that we all love.”