Dear Carolina Community,

As you may know, over the past 10 months, a team of campus leaders from academics and athletics at Carolina has been meeting as the Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group. Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and I are co-leading this 10-person group, which is developing a rigorous and transparent set of processes to promote academic success for student-athletes during their entire experience at UNC. The group’s work is critically important to how we will operate as a University moving forward.

While our work is ongoing, I wanted to give you an update on the group’s progress. Since August 2013, the Working Group has met 12 times to discuss academic processes specifically related to student-athletes. A Working Group representative has interviewed coaches, faculty, administrators and academic support staff from various departments across campus. I’m pleased to report that we have already identified and implemented several reforms. For example, as part of documenting admissions standards and reviewing previous recommendations we are now testing some incoming athletes during spring campus visits to properly assess their learning needs or potential learning disabilities, instead of waiting until summer, as had been the previous practice. The Working Group also has vetted the new admissions standards for special talent athletes, which was implemented for entering freshman in fall 2013, and improved summer orientation for incoming student-athletes by emphasizing academic preparation and critical thinking. The complete list of implemented recommendations will be released publicly upon completion.

The Working Group uses the following principles to guide its work:

  1. UNC is committed to providing a rigorous and meaningful education to every student; this includes supporting and encouraging students to participate fully in campus life, prepare themselves for life after college and develop their potential.
  2. All students should be permitted and encouraged to take full advantage of the rich menu of educational opportunities at UNC and to pursue educational experiences appropriate to their interests, ambitions and capabilities.
  3. Anyone offered admission to UNC must demonstrate the capacity to fully benefit from a UNC education and to earn a UNC degree. Every candidate must be evaluated rigorously, individually and comprehensively.
  4. Academic integrity is inviolable. It is never acceptable for a student, University support staff or unit to compromise the integrity of the education, research and service mission of the University.
  5. Respect for students – for their achievements and potential, and above all for their humanity – is also inviolable.
  6. The policies governing student-athletes’ academic lives at UNC should be transparent and documented.

With these guiding principles as its foundation, the Working Group is first documenting all processes that impact the academic lives of UNC’s student-athletes, evaluating them, and making changes where necessary. The group has identified 22 separate academic processes including recruitment, admissions, financial aid and advising. To date we have reviewed 10 of these. The document summarizing this work currently is being reviewed by four faculty committees and one student-athlete committee. Once complete, the review will be posted publicly on the Carolina Commitment website: carolinacommitment.unc.edu.

The second objective of the Working Group is to review recommendations from recent reports that analyzed the intersection of academics and athletics at UNC, such as those submitted by Jonathan Hartlyn and William Andrews, Governor Martin and the Rawlings Panel. In a companion document to be released with the process document, the Working Group describes each recommendation of every report, organized by the process to which it relates, as well as the Working Group’s response to each recommendation. We believe that many of the recommended safeguards will prevent issues similar to those already documented from occurring in the future.

In addition to Bubba and myself, the Working Group is comprised of Anna Agbe-Davies, Assistant Professor, Anthropology; Lissa Broome, Distinguished Professor, School of Law and Faculty Athletics Representative; Michelle Brown, Assistant Provost, Academic Support Program for Student Athletes; Debbi Clarke, Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost; Steve Farmer, Vice Provost, Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions; Vice Ille, Senior Associate Athletics Director; Jim Johnson, Distinguished Professor, Kenan-Flagler Business School; and Andy Perrin, Professor of Sociology.

We remain committed to transparency as we review the academic and athletic irregularities that occurred at Carolina. Along with the independent investigation currently being conducted by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein, we believe the Working Group’s efforts will ensure that Carolina provides the world-class education our student-athletes, and all UNC students, deserve. Bubba and I thank the members of the Working Group for their continued leadership and service, and we look forward to sharing further updates in the coming months.

Sincerely,

James W. Dean, Jr.,
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

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