The Wednesday release of the Wainstein Report rocked the UNC community, but while the report was exhaustive, it still left some significant questions unanswered. Five days after the bombshell report, here are five questions still left hanging either in the report or in the reaction:
1. What was "patient zero" or "class zero" for the AFAM fraud in 1992?
Kenneth Wainstein notes that it is hard to distinguish legitimate independent studies that took place from 1992-1999 because of the way the courses were registered, which is that all independent studies students were grouped into one section regardless of which professor they were working with. But Wainstein did have access to Debby Crowder, and it would have been nice to have had a more specific number of fraudulent enrollments as well as more details about when and how the scheme began. Plus, from 1992-1999, not a single independent studies section with more than one enrolled student had more than 50% athletes, and only three times out of 76 independent studies sections in those seven years were there more than four athletes enrolled at any one time.
2. How did so many non-athletes end up in the paper classes?
Without a doubt, Wainstein went all-in on the athletics angle, suggesting the courses were designed and maintained for the purpose of propping up eligibility. And yet, the fact remains that 53% of the enrollment of the paper classes were non-athletes. It was noted that the classes became popular in the fraternity circuit (an assertion also made in the Martin Report, by the way) and Crowder handled the enrollments in each of the paper classes personally. So why so many more non-athletes? Wainstein's report doesn't really address that question.
3. How did the AFAM department escape the kind of scrutiny that might have caught this fraud much earlier?
This is one of the more troubling aspects of the entire mess. Again, Wainstein gives a cursory notation that because the AFAM curriculum did not offer graduate degrees, it did not undergo the kind of five-year review most curricula went through. In addition, Wainstein notes Julius Nyang'oro was a tenured professor and department chair and as such did not go through the same performance review as other instructors. But would cursory oversight - much less proper oversight - have caught this fraud? Wainstein doesn't really address how this was allowed to go on for nearly two decades.
4. What the heck was Jan Boxill doing?
Outside of Crowder, who operated a "shadow curriculum" for nearly two decades, the person who comes off the worst in this whole mess is Boxill, who was a philosophy instructor and adviser for the women's basketball team. Boxill worked closely with Crowder to add students to the paper classes, and in fact sometimes requested specific grades for players. Beyond that, digging into the attached exhibits to the Wainstein Report, it would appear Boxill was certainly friendly to athletes in her own classes, although there is no evidence she engaged in any academic malfeasance in any classes she taught herself. Further, Boxill was Faculty Chair while the University was preparing its response to the NCAA and to SACS and undergoing most of the previous eight reviews of this mess. She was a willing, knowing participant in the fraud and as such anything she said or did during this time of faculty leadership is now called into question. While the scope of the Wainstein investigation was AFAM, Boxill's actions deserve a maximum of scrutiny, and clearly she deserved to be fired, as she apparently was on Wednesday.
In the interest of full disclosure, I met and interacted with Jan Boxill on a number of occasions, most notably when I took my high school teams to UNC's women's basketball camps. She was engaging, friendly, and helpful as I sought her advice about a player I had that was being recruited by a number of Division I schools (though not UNC). I even defended her in this space after a Dan Kane story accused her of scrubbing Debby Crowder's name and description from a key faculty report. Although Wainstein addressed that report and came to the same conclusion I made in that piece, it somehow feels dirty knowing now that she was colluding with Crowder in the fraud. Then again, Boxill apparently misled a lot of people given that she was so well-regarded around campus she was the first-ever non-tenured faculty member to be voted as Faculty Chair.
5. Where are the tough questions for Sylvia Hatchell?
As the local and national media are lining up to take their whacks at Roy Williams for "not asking questions" about the paper classes and asserting that there is no way Wayne Walden didn't tell him, there has been deafening silence towards UNC's other national championship-winning, Hall of Fame coach. Unlike Williams, who came to UNC after the scheme had been running for a decade and inherited a team already entrenched in the AFAM curriculum, Hatchell has been at UNC the entire time the paper classes were going on. Moreover, the women's team's adviser, Boxill, was a primary culprit in perpetrating the fraud. While it can only be insinuated what exactly Williams knew, Wainstein indicates that Hatchell was so familiar with Crowder in an "instructional" role that she actually thought Crowder was a professor.
So why the media hypocrisy in pounding Williams, who at a minimum was the one person whose sport actually distanced itself from the fraud, but has not even mentioned Hatchell, whose program was so significantly involved in both enrollments and in Boxill requesting specific grades for players? I think that's pretty self-explanatory: men's basketball is the Holy Grail of this scandal and women's basketball, while maybe just as much if not more culpable, just doesn't move the needle. Chasing the 1994 women's national title banner isn't as impactful as chasing men's banners. Besides, what reporter wants to be the one to come across as raking the courageous recent cancer survivor over the coals? To bang on men's basketball while giving women's basketball a pass is intellectually lazy at best and intellectually dishonest at worst, but as good and fair as some of the reporting of this entire scandal has been, there has also been plenty of laziness and shoddy journalism as well.
Given the breadth and depth of the Wainstein Report, it will take a long time to digest its implications, and any investigation like this is sure to stir up even more questions. Surely there will be more to come.