Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Newly-released emails in UNC fraud investigation appear to support UNC MBB player Rashad McCants' claims of fraud and tutors doing work for players

In an October 22, 2014 CNN article, UNC men's basketball player Rashad McCants alleged that UNC's fraudulent "paper classes" helped him stay eligible to play basketball at UNC.  In particular, he indicated that, during the Spring 2005 semester, the semester when UNC won the NCAA basketball title, all four of his "classes" were of the paper variety and he made the Dean's List, despite doing no work and attending no classes. 

UNC responded to his allegations by trotting out various members of that year's basketball team to respond and "refute" McCants' allegations.  Thus far, however, McCants is the only one who has released his transcripts, and data from the Wainstein investigation indicates that various members of the UNC's FB, MBB, and other teams were enrolled in these paper classes.  The issue discussed here is not whether these courses were fraudulent, because UNC has admitted as much.  Rather, the question is whether athletic department employees committed fraud by doing the academic work athletes should have been doing on their own.

McCants refused to speak to the NCAA regarding his claims that tutors wrote papers and did work for athletes, a decision that contributed to skepticism of his allegations. Just recently, in December 2016, UNC released another 17.8GB of emails and documents from the Wainstein investigation, contained in 19 files.  Among these files are emails between UNC Academic Support for Student Athletes (ASPSA, a part of the athletic department) tutors and learning specialists.  Among these emails, I discovered several that appear to directly buttress McCants' claims that tutors and academic counselors did work for athletes. 

In one email to Cynthia Reynolds from tutor "Susy", who appears to be tutor Susy Dirr, who was also referenced in the Wainstein Report (Cadwalader Report @ 78), Dirr discusses the fact that she wrote outlines for AFAM fake paper classes.

(NOTE: By all accounts that I have seen, Ms. Dirr, who passed away in 2008 from cystic fibrosis, bore no fault in this matter. In fact, Wainstein cited her August 7, 2007 letter decrying the deplorable behavior certain athletes exhibited toward Prof. Bwana Mutima.  As shown  below, Ms. Dirr's work was done at the behest of her ASPSA supervisors.)

The two classes referenced, AFRI 266 and AFRI 520 were both listed as paper classes during the Fall 2006 semester, the period referenced in the email, in the Wainstein Report exhibits.  In fact, AFRI 266 papers were investigated by a trio of experts (Edmond J. Keller, Ph.D, Derek Malone-France, Ph.D, and Imani Perry, Ph.D, in their report titled Expert Academic Evaluation of Retrieved Paper Set African and African American Studies Department, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Spring 2005-Spring 2011 (See Cadwalader Report Exhibits @ 144).  The experts found that:

The fact that an academic tutor under the umbrella of the athletic department wrote the outline for the paper required for AFRI 266 would tend to explain the existence of plagiarism and "academic abnormalities" in the course's paper among athletes.  For the fall 2006 semester, Wainstein documents show that 17 football players, 4 men's basketball players, 3 women's basketball players, and 23 athletes in other sports were enrolled in the AFRI 266 "paper class." Overall, athletes made up 47 out of the 95 enrollments in the "class" that semester. (Cadwalader Exhibits @ 101-102).

Subsequent emails to Cynthia Reynolds, who declined to speak with Wainstein and the Cadwalader investigation team, from the tutor, confirms that outlines were sent to athletes. 

The work of writing outlines for athletes' papers appears to have been done by tutor Susy Dirr at the request of ASPSA's Cynthia Reynolds, as seen below:

The practice of sending the outlines directly to athletes was not practiced for all classes.  For example, for the paper class AFAM 697, referenced in the email below, for the Summer I and II semesters in 2007, the decision was made to give the outline to the mentors as a guide.

The fact that tutors did work for athletes is also supported by an additional document from UNC's files, showing ASPSA's Beth Bridger's name on an AFAM paper.

As a side note, the reason why the author of the emails appears to be clearly UNC football team tutor Susy Dirr is because a) other emails from her appear in the same section of the UNC document release, b) the time period corresponds to her tenure there, and c) other emails where her full name appears appear very similar to those referenced above.  For example, see below:

These emails appear in UNC's December release, document PRR7-15 beginning on page 1058 approximately.  

These documents are relevant for several reasons.  First, they show in detail how the eligibility curriculum that exists to sustain the NCAA's "collegiate model" works to the detriment of education.  Second, they underscore the importance of continuing to dig for the facts, despite some notable athletic department sympathizers among the UNC faculty and administration suggesting otherwise.  Third, these documents appear to undermine UNC's latest claims that the athletic department staff did not engage in any behavior contrary to NCAA bylaws.