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Ten Questions to Ask to Prevent Academic Fraud

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In the aftermath of the most recent report on the academic fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presidents and trustees have to wonder whether such events are happening on their campus. While one would hope that is not the case, the trustees and senior administrators at Chapel Hill probably thought that such activities were inconceivable on their campuses. Had appropriate questions been asked over the years, the damage to the institution’s reputation and the risk of sanctions from both accreditors and the NCAA could have been avoided.

Here are ten questions that presidents and trustees need to ask as they discharge their fiduciary duties to the institution:

1. What mechanisms are in place to ensure regular substantive reviews of all academic departments and the courses they offer by individuals outside the department?
2. What mechanisms are in place to ensure that the academic work of each department chair is regularly reviewed by individuals outside the chair’s department?
3. What mechanisms are in place to ensure that the administrative work of each department chair is regularly reviewed by individuals outside the chair’s department?
4. Is the number of direct reports within the academic organization such that meaningful review of subordinates is possible?
5. Are academic support programs for student athletes subject to both substantive and budgetary control by an appropriate academic office?
6. Is the location of the academic support program such that it is more likely to be controlled by the athletic department or the academic organization?
7. Are student and staff counselors in such academic support programs supervised in such a way as to ensure academic integrity?
8. Are faculty members involved in the ongoing assessment of the work of the academic support programs?
9. Is there an external reporting mechanism where employees who become aware of academic fraud can confidentially report such activities without fear of retribution?
10. Are classes monitored by the institution to detect anomalous levels of student athlete enrollment or average grades awarded?

The answers to these questions can provide presidents and trustees with assurance that multiple institutional controls exist to avoid a situation such as was found at Chapel Hill. The time involved in getting answers and responding to those questions in an appropriate way will be well worth the effort.

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