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Professors in Classroom on Time? Check. - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Professors in Classroom on Time? Check. - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

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Professors in Classroom on Time? Check. - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Professors in Classroom on Time? Check. - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

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Published by: JohnTheBaptistII on Jan 11, 2014
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05/02/2014

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Faculty
January 6, 2014
Professors in Class on Time? Check.
 At the U. of North Carolina, a culture of autonomy falls victimto one department's no-show scandal
By Lindsay Ellis and Robin Wilson 
Chapel Hill, N.C.
everly Foster moved from classroom to classroom lastspring, slipping into the back, unannounced, and jotting down notes about what she heard and saw.Students taking test. Class presentation. Professor lecturing.Ms. Foster, director of undergraduate education at the University of North Carolina's School of Nursing here, then forwarded herobservations to top administrators at the university. Other of 
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cialsmade similar classroom visits campuswide. In the College of Artsand Sciences alone they covered 430 courses, or almost 10 percentof those offered last spring and this fall. If a class didn't meet asscheduled, of 
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cials followed up with a department head to ask  why.Such spot-checks are unheard of on college campuses, especially at a prestigious public research university like Chapel Hill. They are among the changes the
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agship campus has adopted in the wake of the most egregious case of academic fraud evercommitted at the university.The academic improprieties, in which professors' signatures wereforged to change students' grades and undergraduates got creditfor courses that never met, went undetected for nearly 15 years within the African- and Afro-American-studies department. Theuniversity says the fraud appears to be the work of a longtimeadministrator in the department and its chairman, Julius E.Nyang'oro, who led African-American studies here for nearly twodecades. Many of the students who were involved in thequestionable classes were athletes.
Professors in Classroom on Time? Check. - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education
 
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The fraud has served as a wake-up call about the potential dangerssurrounding the hallmarks of the faculty work culture. Autonomy and
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exibility may be key to maintaining academic freedom, butthey can also lead to abuse.James G. Martin, a former governor of North Carolina who wasasked by the campus's Board of Trustees to conduct an extensiveinvestigation into the fraud, told the board in his report: "Themutual mantra (the Inverse Golden Rule of Academia) is: I won'tquestion how you teach and grade your courses, if you won'tquestion mine." Administrators characterize what happened here as an isolatedepisode that involved just one of 3,665 full-time faculty members.But the academic changes that the university has pushed throughin the aftermath have reverberated through classrooms and faculty of 
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ces across the campus. The changes attempt to limit the largely unchecked authority that professors have had in performing their jobs, and to make sure that such an embarrassment cannot recur.The scandal still haunts the university, even though Mr.Nyang'oro, who was indicted last month on fraud charges in acounty district court, has departed. His defense attorney has saidhe plans to plead not guilty.Professors at North Carolina say colleagues at other institutionscontinue to ask how such large-scale fraud could have gone on forso long at an elite institution. "What's sobering," says Jonathan D. Weiler, a faculty adviser in global studies at Chapel Hill, "is that we were capable of much more systematic cheating than I hadpreviously naïvely thought."rofessors here say it was in part because of the university'shigh-caliber academic reputation that an apparently dishonest faculty member operated in their midst for so long. They note that Chapel Hill—which before the Nyang'oro episode hadnot been accused of a major violation of NCAA rules in 50 years—had managed to strike the right mix between academicsand athletics, making it seem immune to the kind of classroomscandals that have plagued other universities with big-time sports
Professors in Classroom on Time? Check. - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education
 
programs."There is a real culture at UNC of being proud of what thatinstitution stands for as a really strong public university," saysLaurie F. Maf 
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 y-Kipp, head of the religious-studies departmentuntil she joined Washington University in St. Louis this academic year as a distinguished professor of humanities. She was part of asmall group of Chapel Hill faculty members who led one of theuniversity's analyses of the scandal.Just like other professors here, Mr. Nyang'oro was assumed by hiscolleagues to be part of what one faculty member here calls the"honorable fraternity" of scholars who upheld the university's highstandards. He came to North Carolina in 1984 as a visiting assistant professor after earning a Ph.D. in political science fromMiami University in Ohio and a law degree from Duke University.By 1992 he had become an associate professor and been namedchair of the program in African and Afro-American studies. Itachieved departmental status in 1997, and Mr. Nyang'orocontinued on as chairman.Like other department heads at Chapel Hill, he was reappointed by administrators to the job every
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ve years without going throughthe usual posttenure review required of other tenured faculty members.Professors at other universities say it is odd for a chairman tocontinue serving without receiving a more-thorough review. Whilepractices across higher education and even within universitiesvary widely, scholars say they believe that department leaders onmost campuses are scrutinized more closely both by their owncolleagues and by administrators than Mr. Nyang'oro was."I
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nd it strange that they have a posttenure review for all faculty but exempted the chairs," says Henry Reichman, who heads the American Association of University Professors' Committee on Academic Freedom. He is a professor emeritus of history atCalifornia State University-East Bay. "The department as a wholeshould be looking at the chair," he says, "and so should theadministration."
Professors in Classroom on Time? Check. - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education

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