Skip to content

Whistleblower in UNC academic fraud case files lawsuit against school

Jul 2, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT

Image (1) university-of-north-carolina-logo-thumb-220x177-1144.jpg for post 315

Mary Willingham, a former academic advisor at North Carolina and the whistleblower in the academic fraud investigation at the university, has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, according to numerous reports on Tuesday morning.

(Those with a legal mind can go ahead and read through the entire lawsuit here.)

Willingham was employed by the university from 2003-2014, spending much of her time working as a learning specialist. She made it a mission to get the school and the athletic department to take accountability for their failings in regards to the academic scandal that has plagued the school for the past three years. Using her own research, Willingham claimed in a CNN special report that 8-10% of the athletes on scholarship at the school between 2005 and 2012 were reading below a third grade level and that roughly 60% were reading between a fourth and eighth grade level.

Willingham claims in the lawsuit that a recent demotion was retaliation by the school, saying that she was “essentially punished for having reported the truth”, which is illegal in North Carolina. Willingham also says that she was “constructively terminated” because of the demotion and a hostile work environment that was created by the school.

Damages total $10,000 and Willingham is also asking for her job back with protection against termination as a result of these legal proceedings and the reopened NCAA investigation into the academic fraud at the school.

On Monday, the NCAA and North Carolina announced that due to subjects that are more willing to provide information to their investigators, they will once again be digging into the academic fraud allegations involving the men’s basketball and football teams.

  1. sailbum7 - Jul 2, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    This definitely sounds like the school retaliated against her for airing their dirty laundry in public. I think that a serious investigation by the NCAA would find some degree of academic fraud occurring in just about every major college sports program. Particularly in the big money makers of men’s football and basketball. I had a University of Maryland basketball player come to work for me a number of years ago. He supposedly had an engineering degree but could not even write a proper English sentence to save his life.

  2. beaverdam21 - Jul 2, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    I would ask the public, a great number of whom perhaps with some reason resent UNC’s previously squeaky clean image, to withold judgment on this important subject.
    I chose UNC for its academics, did rather well, with a double major, academic awards and a graduate degree from a name university, and have vigorously supported academic programs at the school for 3 decades, and have never given one cent to the athletic department. There are 2 sides to every question and the big bad school is not necessarily wrong or covering up. As far as I know the “new source” is former basketball player Rashad McCants who for unknown reason just came forward regarding alleged improptieties from 2009, when he graduated and earlier. He was considered emotionally off even when starring on the basketball team then and his recent announcement was immediately met with a ringing repudiation of everything he was claiming by the rest of the team, all safely past the reach of the University at this date. The researcher in question’s work was roundly discredited by an academically impeccable independent team of scholars hired to address her methodology. Shortly before filing her suit she announced she was voluntarily resigning, and that is why the lawyers (my job too) have to call it “constructive” termination. And this is the first hint of meaningful impropriety to come to light at the athletic department of this large school in the fifty years I have been an unabashed supporter, support pretty much based solely on the primacy of academics there. There are a lot of bright folks who feel the same, and I just do not think we have all been hoodwinked and that this is the inevitable unmasking of business as usual. By all means let these new investigations play out. A former US Attorney is conducting one at the same time, and there have been multiple others as well. So far the more digging that has gone on, the less that has materialized. A promising young Chancellor has already quit over the continuing allegations, and if something meaningful comes to light, heads should roll, but that has not happened yet, and again I would ask people to keep an open mind. Thank you.

  3. ncarolinarn7 - Jul 2, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    Politics like almost all work places. Might as well kiss up before you get screwed over. A flower and a meal help also.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!