The prosecutor leading an investigation into fraud in an academic department at North Carolina says a retired administrator tied to the case won’t face charges.
In a news release Tuesday, Orange County district attorney Jim Woodall said Deborah Crowder from the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department is cooperating with investigators. She also will cooperate with an independent investigation by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth L. Wainstein, announced by the school last month.
The problems in the department included classes with significant athlete enrollments that didn’t meet and were treated as independent study work requiring only a research paper, as well as unauthorized grade changes dating to the late 1990s.
Two school investigations blamed Crowder and ex-chairman Julius Nyang’oro. Nyang’oro was charged in December for receiving $12,000 to teach a summer 2011 lecture course filled with football players and instead treating it as an independent study requiring a paper.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Woodall said he didn’t expect anyone else to be charged.
“You can never say never, understand that, because of course information can come up that I’m unaware of,” Woodall said. “But at this point, I don’t anticipate anybody else being charged.”
The school had said Wainstein would look into any additional information that might become available through the criminal probe conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation. The school said Wainstein would then “take any further steps necessary to address questions left unanswered” in previous reviews about how irregularities took place.
Crowder, who retired in September 2009, hasn’t cooperated with previous school investigations. Woodall, who asked the SBI to investigate in May 2012, wouldn’t say what Crowder has told investigators about the fraud or why Nyang’oro was charged and she wasn’t.
Brian Vick, Crowder’s attorney, issued a statement saying Crowder “believes that it is important for the full and unvarnished truth to come out” and that she would provide Wainstein “with as much knowledge as she has about the independent study classes that were offered during her tenure.”
“I hesitate to say she’s relieved because no part of this has been easy for her,” Vick said in an interview with the AP. “She lives a very private life and none of this has been enjoyable. I know that having the prospective criminal charges lifted from her, there was a certain amount of relief for that. But I think the greater relief for her will come when she no longer wakes up in the morning and sees her name splashed across the front page of the newspapers.”
In a statement, Wainstein said he was grateful that Woodall and Vick had arranged for him to meet with Crowder, though neither Woodall nor Vick would say when a meeting would take place.
Wainstein led last year’s outside review of the NCAA’s botched handling of the Miami investigation connected to booster Nevin Shapiro. The former U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C., Wainstein also was named Homeland Security Advisor by President George W. Bush in 2008.
The discovery of irregularities was an offshoot of an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct within the football program. The academic violations in the NCAA case, which began in summer 2010, centered on a tutor providing too much help on papers and led to sanctions in March 2012.
A previous inquiry at UNC conducted by former Gov. Jim Martin in 2012 found problems in more than 200 courses in the department dating to at least 1997, including the lecture classes that didn’t meet and possibly forged signatures on grade rolls. In addition, a separate review reported in July 2012 that academic advisors referred athletes to the suspect classes for enrollment.
In all, there have been seven internal and external reviews or investigations since 2011 resulting in more than 70 recommendations to improve policies and procedures. The school has implemented numerous reforms, even having officials spot check classes to ensure they’re actually meeting.
The NCAA told the school in September that it has no plans for charges or additional investigation. The agency that accredits UNC said in June that it wouldn’t sanction the school.