By Robby Soave
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will conduct unannounced inspections of classes to confirm that they exist, following revelations about decades of fraudulent classes involving student athletes and the African-American studies department.
With an outside review board scheduled to visit the campus in the spring, UNC administrators are determined to make sure all scheduled classes are meeting at their appointed times, and featuring real conversations between instructors and students. Administrators have even considered taking pictures while classes are in session to obtain proof of existence.
In the College of Arts and Sciences, administrators visited a random 187 out of 2,300 class meetings. If a classroom had windows, the inspector only needed to peek in and make sure that an appropriate number of students were engaged with an in-the-flesh instructor.
One administrator, a former journalist, found the inspections refreshing.
“I’m an old reporter,” said Susan King, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in a statement. “So you go and check and document. That’s what reporters do. I thought it was not a bad process.”
But not everyone is enjoying the inspections. One professor called them “Orwellian.”
“It was more than irritating,” said Lew Margolis, a professor of public health, in a statement to The News and Observer. “As I spoke to some colleagues about it, they looked at me and said, ‘This is ridiculous. What the heck’s going on here?’”
Orwellian or not, many members of the UNC community believe they are necessary. Recent investigations have uncovered years of fraud in the African-American studies department, including phantom classes that never met, and others where every student received an “A.” About half the students enrolled in such classes were student athletes, a report found.