Outrageous Email Reveals How UNC Staff Ignored University Rules To Reward Student Athletes

University North Carolina Women's Basketball Students Tar HeelsGregory Shamus/Getty ImagesMembers of the UNC Women’s Basketball team celebrate during a 2007 game against the University of Tennessee.

A report released Wednesday by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill reveals the breadth of an academic scandal that for years allowed student athletes to pass and often receive top grades in classes they never attended and only had to write one paper for.

These so-called “paper classes” were run through UNC’s African and Afro-American Studies department, and organised by the department’s administrator Deborah Crowder.

It’s clear from the report that both academic and athletic staff members routinely ignored university rules in order to ensure the success of UNC student athletes. In this September 2008 email exchange — included in Wednesday’s report — Crowder and women’s basketball academic counselor Jan Boxill discuss an essay grade for a women’s basketball player (full exchange below):

Crowder: As long as I am here I will try to accommodate as many favours as possible. Did you say a D will do for [basketball player]? I’m only asking that because 1. no sources, 2. it has absolutely nothing to do with the assignments for that class and 3. it seems to me to be a recycled paper. She took AFRI in spring of 2007 and that was likely for that class.

Boxill: Yes, a D will be fine; that’s all she needs. I didn’t look at the paper but figured it was a recycled one as well, but I couldn’t figure from where! Thanks for whatever you can do.

It’s worth noting that at the time of these emails, Boxill was the director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Philosophy, as well as the director of the UNC Parr Center for Ethics.

This email exchange is included in UNC’s report, and both Crowder and Boxill acknowledge it’s real. Here’s how they explained passing an athlete even though she cheated and plagiarized an essay:

When we asked Crowder and Boxill about this exchange, they admitted their collusion on the grade, but explained that it had nothing to do with eligibility. This was a student-athlete whose playing days were over, who was on the verge of graduation and who needed only a passing grade to get her diploma. They simply ignored the glaring deficiencies in her paper so as to allow her to graduate.

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