UNC Reportedly Hires Attorney to Investigate Academic Issues

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, NC - DECEMBER 18:  General view as Marcus Paige #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels falls to the floor after missing a last-second 3-point attempt as the Texas Longhorns celebrate after their win at the Dean Smith Center on December 18, 2013 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Texas won 86-83.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

With the specter of an academic scandal still hanging over the school, North Carolina is bringing in a third party to conduct an investigation to examine any possible academic irregularities.

CNN's Sara Ganim reported that Kenneth L. Wainstein has been retained by the higher-ups at the school to determine what is going on in Chapel Hill.

UNC system president Tom Ross and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt said that Wainstein will have access to "new information that may become available."

He'll also have access to whatever information local District Attorney Jim Woodall possesses.

Ross and Folt said:

Woodall has indicated that he will cooperate with the inquiry and that he can now share with the independent counsel as much information acquired by his office during the criminal investigation as determined to be appropriate

He has experience with the NCAA before, as he was brought in to figure out where it all went wrong with the investigation into the Miami Hurricanes' athletic programs, per Dan Kane of the News & Observer:

Back in January, Ganim reported on the rot that's going on in Chapel Hill. She spoke with Mary Willingham, a learning specialist for the school, who ran into student-athletes who had reading levels relative to an elementary school student. Willingham also witnessed and participated in NCAA academic rules violations.

The problem stems in part from the fact that many student-athletes were enrolled in what proved to be fake classes, an issue that could go all the way back to 1997. It was a massive revelation, given North Carolina's general standing in the academic community.

A lot of negative attention was thrust upon both the football and basketball teams.

Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

All of it led Folt to tell school trustees, per Ganim, "We also accept the fact that there was a failure in academic oversight for years that permitted this to continue. This, too, was wrong. And it has undermined our integrity and our reputation."

The fact that the school has brought in an independent observer is the right step. The legitimacy of any attempt by the school itself to run a thorough investigation would always be questioned, no matter how accurate and in-depth it could prove to be.

Wainstein doesn't have a dog in this fight, as his biography on Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP's website indicates that he received his B.A. from the University of Virginia and his J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Perhaps he can get to the bottom of what has been going on at North Carolina, how much it has failed its students and what needs to be done to rectify the problem.