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UNC investigator expects report by the fall

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The Washington attorney leading an independent investigation of past academic irregularities at UNC-Chapel Hill told the UNC system Board of Governors Friday that he expects his report to be completed in the fall, but that an exact timetable was uncertain.

“We don’t have any findings yet. Our investigation is not complete,” said Kenneth Wainstein, a partner with the Washington law firm of Cadwalader, Wiskersham, & Taft.

Carolina hired Wainstein in February despite previous investigations, which many criticized as incomplete.

Wainstein, speaking to the board Friday, said his team’s investigation had benefited from the previous investigations, but that those faced the critical problem of not having cooperation from Julius Nyang'oro, the former chairman of the formerly named Department of African and Afro-American studies, and Deborah Crowder, the former department manager.

Wainstein said because of that, “The university has an opportunity to get to the bottom of this.”

He said the goal is to “get out all the facts – whatever they are.”

He said his team is working independently of UNC, but that Carolina has been fully cooperative. He said his team is researching emails and student records as far back as the 1980s and interviewing people involved.

Wainstein said he and his staff have interviewed 80 people and searched 1.5 million emails.

He said that when it came to the “paper classes” in the African and Afro-American Studies program, there are three points of emphasis.

The first is, what were the classes? When were they designed? Did they deviate from university rules? When were they created and why?

The second is, how did the classes impact the students? Did the students do true academic work?

And third, what was the role of the athletics department in relation to the classes? Did the athletics department encourage athletes to take the classes? And if so, why?

He also said his team was reviewing UNC’s response as allegations of problems arose. One criticism of Carolina, both from the outside and from some faculty members, was that the school was quick to deny the extent of the problems.

“What was the response of the university … as red flags came up?” Wainstein asked.

Wainstein said Carolina has agreed not to launch any investigations of its own while his team is doing its work, and had also agreed to keep public comments to a minimum so it would not influence witnesses.

“It’s impossible to give an exact time frame on when this would be done,” Wainstein said. He said he hoped to have a report, which would be made public, by the fall.

The academic scandal has consumed UNC in recent years. Football coach Butch Davis resigned under pressure, athletics director Dick Baddour retired early, and chancellor Holden Thorp left UNC for a provost job at Saint Louis University.

Earlier this month, former UNC basketball player Rashad McCants told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that he took no-show classes, and that North Carolina basketball head coach Roy Williams knew about them. Williams has denied knowing McCants took no-show classes and denied McCants’ suggestion that other basketball players did as well.

UNC has conducted many other internal investigations, including one by James Martin, a former governor of North Carolina. Martin concluded that the academic scandal with the football program was indeed just that, an academic scandal, and not an athletic scandal. Martin’s probe implicated only Nyang’oro and Crowder, which sparked skepticism about how much Martin had really uncovered.

UNC also formed a group of academic specialists to conduct an independent review of former academic adviser Mary Willingham's data and claim regarding the reading levels of some players.

UNC is paying Wainstein $990 an hour and playing three associates from his Washington-based firm between $770 and $450 an hour.

Also on Friday, the UNC Board of Governors elected Charlotte attorney John Fennesbresque chair of the board. His two-year term begins July 1.

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