The quick and dirty guide to UNC’s paper class scandal

The quick and dirty guide to UNC’s paper class scandal

Here's a quick and dirty guide to the athletic paper class scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill for curious but clueless UNC freshmen.

You’re getting settled into your dorm and life on South Campus, and as you eat your pizza and chicken nugget-stacked plates of food in Rams, you begin to hear the upperclassmen rumblings about “the scandal.” Maybe it’s a joke about plagiarized papers or wanting to take a class that doesn’t meet. At any rate, you’ve heard that something big and bad happened recently.

We have a quick run-down of the essentials about UNC’s athletic and academic scandal with everything you need to know.

How it started: In the 1990s, a former chairman of curriculum of the then African and Afro-American Studies department started offering “paper classes” that didn’t meet often or at all. Coursework was graded leniently, and some students were later caught plagiarizing papers, submitting subpar work, or turning in papers that had been written for them almost entirely by tutors.

Students taking these classes were often mostly athletes.

University of North Carolina Tar Heels football Marvin Austin tweet

This tweet, sent by former UNC football player Marvin Austin in 2010, prompted the start of the investigation.

How it was discovered: A tweet by a football player prompted an NCAA investigation into agents providing financial benefits. The investigation found a tutor provided improper help on papers for football players. From there, subsequent investigations and public records requests by news outlets revealed the scope of the fake classes and improper help by tutors.

What happened after it was discovered: One person involved in making the paper classes happen retired, and the other resigned. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools put UNC on a year-long probation, and the NCAA sent the school a Notice of Allegations (often called an NOA) in May 2015 that said UNC committed three major violations.

The year-long probation ended, and UNC responded to the NCAA’s allegations in August 2015. The university’s response acknowledged problems tied to the paper classes, but disputed other parts of the NCAA claims. The NCAA and UNC have gone back and forth with responses since then.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Where we stand now: UNC submitted its most recent response to the NCAA on Aug. 1, 2016. The NCAA has until Oct. 30, 2016, (or 90 days) to respond.

Want to learn more?: Here’s a reading list to get you fully caught up.

Timeline of the UNC investigation (1979-July 2016), from the News & Observer (April 25, 2016)

Search thousands of UNC scandal records, from WRAL (July 4, 2016)

Marvin Austin’s “Club Liv” Tweet was Five Years Ago Today, from Tar Heel Blog (May 29, 2015)

UNC responds to Notice of Allegations: questions and answers, from the News & Observer (Aug. 2, 2016)

Sharon Nunn

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  • […] The NCAA announced in June 2014 (yes, three years ago) that it was investigating UNC. But things go back even further than that — to a 2010 tweet by then-football player Marvin Austin and to 1990s “paper classes” in the African and Afro-American studies department. You can get a full rundown of the paper class scandal and investigation here. […]

  • […] “paper class” scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill ended with a whimper. A toothless NCAA recognized that it has no power to impose […]


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