On Thursday, May 12, 2016, collegiate sports powerhouse the University of North Carolina publicly revealed a slew of emails that show what appears to be professors and university staff engaged in discussions to boost or change the grades of student-athletes. The disclosure comes in response to an official NCAA academic fraud investigation into the school, and centers around the women’s basketball team.
The released emails, many of which have been redacted to protect certain players and professors, show university employees openly talking about expediently changing grades for players. While the practice of cutting student-athletes academic breaks so they can participate in their sports may come as no to surprise to most — colleges are, at their heart, a business and successful sports programs tend to draw the biggest flows of cash into schools — it’s rare when open examples of such impropriety come to light.
Many of the emails released were written by UNC staffer Jan Boxill, who was employed as a philosophy professor and as the academic counselor for the women’s basketball team. The NCAA has officially accused Boxill of “knowingly provid[ing] extra benefits in the form of impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to the women’s basketball student-athletes.” The disclosed emails discuss Boxill revising and writing sections of players’ assignments and demanding professors change grades so the athletes could avoid suspensions from game play.
Along with the emails, other interesting items were revealed as well, including a PowerPoint given to the university’s football staff encouraging academically at-risk players to be enrolled in certain classes in the African and Afro-American Studies department. That department is also one of the main targets of the NCAA probe, allegedly offering special classes for student-athletes for the sole purpose of boosting their grades and making them game-eligible.
The NCAA formally launched its investigation last year.