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2 More Fired, 3 Cleared in UNC Review after Cheating Scandal

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. ― The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is firing two employees and barring a former associate dean from leadership positions after an investigation described their roles in the school’s academic fraud scandal, the school said Thursday.

The moves mean seven people have been fired, resigned or disciplined since former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein released a report in October 2014 describing a pattern of fake classes that allowed 3,100 athletes and other students to earn artificially high grades from 1993 to 2011. The sham courses were solely in the African studies department, but people around campus knew of them and said nothing, the report said.

Three other UNC employees were cleared, the university said.

The moves came after personnel reviews considering whether the employees helped allow fake courses, directed students to them, or were in a position to know about the wrongdoing and failed to stop it.

The school said Brent Blanton, associate director of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, was fired effective Thursday. Blanton was a women’s soccer academic counselor.

Also fired Thursday was Travis Gore, an administrative assistant in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies.

Roberta Owen, professor of dramatic art and former senior associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, was permanently barred from any leadership responsibilities.

Three other employees were cleared of wrongdoing. They were identified as Corey Holliday, associate director of athletics; Alphonse Mutima, lecturer in the Department of African, African-American and Diaspora Studies; and Andre’ Williams, associate director of development, Arts and Sciences Foundation, and former director of football student-athlete development.

In March, philosophy professor and former faculty chairwoman Jan Boxill ended a fight to keep her job and became the highest profile firing in the wake of the scandal.

University officials began taking steps to fire her in October on the day that a scathing report into the cheating scandal was released. At the time, Chancellor Carol Folt said the decision to fire Boxill was prompted by “the extraordinary circumstances underlying the longstanding and intolerable academic irregularities” described in the report by Wainstein.

Boxill was an adviser to women’s basketball players. According to the report, she directed some into the fake courses, sought at least twice to influence the grades given to students and acknowledged sometimes editing student papers.

The scandal initially emerged from reports of a tutor providing improper help on research papers. UNC later reported fraud in the since-renamed African and Afro-American Studies department, including lecture classes that didn’t meet, possibly forged signatures on grade rolls, unauthorized grade changes and poor oversight. It contributed to the departure of football coach Butch Davis in 2011 and resignation of Chancellor Holden Thorp in 2012.

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