University of North Carolina athletes weren’t the only group benefiting from the college’s recently exposed 18-year, 3,100-student cheating scandal -- fraternity members did, too. More than 700 fraternity brothers, and some sorority sisters, took the no-attendance, no-professor, one-assignment “paper classes” that earned them easy A’s and B’s. Some fraternity members took so many African and Afro-American studies courses -- the ones revealed to be rigged -- that they accidentally earned minors in the subject.
Discussion of fraternity members’ enrollment in the irregular classes spans several paragraphs in the 136-page report containing the results of an eight-month investigation by former United States Department of Justice prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein. The findings, released Wednesday, exposed paper classes from 1993 to 2011 in which students could get high grades with little effort.
“The largest source of referrals for non-athlete students -- besides word-of-mouth -- was the fraternity network on campus,” the report reads. “One student ... learned early on from his brothers about an AFAM administrator named Debby Crowder who was very accommodating.... [S]he would enroll him in a ‘paper class,’ which he understood to be an independent studies class for which one was guaranteed an A or A- simply for submitting a 10-page paper.”
Fraternity members began registering for the courses in force, causing Crowder at one point complain to another employee that news of them had “gotten into the frat circuit,” according to the report.
Another motivation for fraternities to instruct their members to take the classes was minimum grade requirements. UNC requires each chapter’s GPA to be 2.7 or higher each semester, according to the Fraternity and Sorority Standards of Excellence. Members interviewed in the report said they “saw these classes as somewhat of a ‘loophole’ in Chapel Hill’s otherwise demanding curriculum.”
UNC Interfraternity Council President Kenan Drum told International Business Times the organization stands in agreement with university president Thomas Ross and chancellor Carol Folt that "the actions of a few have stained the integrity of our university." Drum said the council has a tradition of academic excellence. "In his report, Mr. Wainstein alleges that 729 IFC members took paper classes over a 10-year period," he said. "As the average annual IFC membership is 1,300, his report therefore only indicts only 5.6 percent of the IFC populace over the span. The IFC will continue to stand behind our chancellor as we move forward as both a university and Greek community."
UNC has 56 fraternity and sororities with a total of 3,200 undergraduate members -- nearly 20 percent of the undergraduate student population, according to the "Fraternity & Sorority Life at Carolina" 2014 brochure. Fraternity members at UNC have skirted the rules before. UNC’s Chi Phi chapter is on probation after it broke rules about serving alcohol and initiating new members in 2013. In January, police seized 178 grams of marijuana and .21 grams of cocaine at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house. There have also been several drug arrests.