UNC Af-Am aide denies claims of Wainstein Report, may cooperate with NCAA
Posted March 9
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Deborah Crowder, a secretary and administrator in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of African and Afro-American Studies from 1979 to 2009, denied in an affidavit filed Wednesday the claims of the Wainstein Report that she favored student-athletes, served in a professorial role in overseeing independent studies and gave As and Bs for papers with "relatively little work" so long as they met a length requirement. Crowder was one of the main focuses of the report that found UNC had steered student-athletes to no-show or "paper classes" for up to 18 years.
Crowder's name surfaced almost 100 times in the 136-page Wainstein Report, considered the definitive document of a years-long series of investigations into classes in the Af-Am department.
Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor, interviewed Crowder and her boss, Julius Nyang'oro, who served as Af-Am department professor and chairman, along with dozens of others and concluded that Crowder "started and managed a line of academically unsound classes that provided deficient educational instruction to thousands of Chapel Hill students."
Crowder, in trying to clear her name and in cooperation with the latest and ongoing NCAA investigation at UNC, submitted to a deposition and, through her lawyer, has asked for a meeting with the NCAA's vice president of enforcement to provide background.
While the Wainstein Report found that student-athletes were specifically steered towards no-paper classes by academic counselors, Crowder said there was no preference for athletes.
"I worked with all academic advisors, both non-athletic and athletic academic advisors, to enroll students that they proposed," she said.
"No special consideration was given to athletes with respect to course requirements or course grading," Crowder's lawyer, Elliot S. Abrams, wrote to the NCAA.
She also countered the report's finding that she managed the classes and assigned grades.
Wainstein wrote, "She received the completed papers from the students and graded them herself, cursorily skimming them over and awarding As or Bs so long as they satisfied the page-length requirement; She typically filled out and signed the grade sheet with Nyang’oro’s name."
In her affidavit, Crowder admitted she graded papers for Nyang'oro, especially when his schedule required more travel, but denied she was an easy grader.
"The papers had to be on topic, have appropriate citations and a properly formatted bibliography, be of the appropriate length, and be accompanied by the Honor Pledge," she said.
Joel Curran, vice chancellor of UNC, cheered Crowder's decision to talk.
"We appreciate Ms. Crowder's willingness to share her experience and to consider participating in the NCAA's joint investigation. We have been encouraging her to do so since 2011 when the NCAA began examining the academic irregularities," he said.
UNC has been awaiting the NCAA's punishment on allegations of favoritism toward student-athletes for almost three years. In June 2015, the NCAA, based in part on the Wainstein Report, issued a Notice of Allegations listing five serious violations, including "lack of institutional control" at UNC.
Nyang'Oro and Crowder "violated the principles of ethical conduct and extra-benefit legislation," the NCAA wrote, in making special arrangements for student-athletes.
Crowder's deposition and letter to the NCAA deny both of those claims and call the conclusions of the Wainstein Report "hearsay and opinions."
The NCAA first began investigating Tar Heels athletic programs in the summer of 2010 on reports that football players were accepting money and gifts from agents and their representatives, in violation of amateurism rules.
It took almost two years for the NCAA to find academic improprieties, student-agent dealings and the acceptance of improper benefits and to punish the UNC football program with a bowl ban, a reduction in scholarships and a removal of 16 wins from the record books.
The university, prompted by revelations during that investigation about student-athletes who got help with papers and classes that never met, conducted several reviews of the then-Department of African and Afro-American Studies, culminating in the hiring of Wainstein and his 2014 report.
UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham has challenged the NCAA's right to punish UNC for academic issues and has questioned the process.
"It makes it really difficult for any institution that is going to face a group that can act as the investigator, the prosecutor and the judge," he said in December. "We need to consider, not just in this case but on national basis, the entire infractions process."
The NCAA process allows the university 90 days to respond to the latest allegations, and that deadline is looming.
"We are planning to respond by the deadline set by the NCAA and will release that response after we conduct a review to protect privacy rights," Curran said.
The NCAA then has another 60 days to reply. After that, the university would again go before the NCAA Committee on Infractions for a hearing. Any sanctions would come after that hearing.
WRAL contacted officials at UNC for a response to Crowder's affidavit.
"We appreciate Ms. Crowder's willingness to share her experience and to consider participating in the NCAA's joint investigation. We have been encouraging her to do so since 2011 when the NCAA began examining the academic irregularities," a spokesperson said in a statement.
The NCAA issued the latest Notice of Allegations against the university in November. UNC has not yet released its respond to the NCAA.