University officials comment on Rawlings panel report

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officials today responded to a new report on intercollegiate athletics completed by a panel of distinguished national higher education leaders. Chaired by Association of American Universities President Hunter Rawlings, the panel offered 28 recommendations for Carolina and other universities nationwide.

“We thank Dr. Rawlings and a highly accomplished panel for the time they took to consider not only how Carolina, but how all other universities can ensure excellence in athletics and academics,” said Chancellor Carol Folt. “We will take advantage of the opportunities and insights provided by the panel to improve and to lead on these issues.”

The panel was asked to make recommendations for UNC-Chapel Hill and to provide ideas for other universities in addressing a challenging issue for all of higher education. Then Chancellor Holden Thorp appointed the panel in response to a 2012 faculty report. The panel convened a roundtable discussion on campus in April.

Bubba Cunningham, director of athletics, said the panel’s work would benefit UNC and all of college athletics.

“Their report should create opportunities for extensive dialogue among the many people associated with college athletics and higher education,” he said. “The University of North Carolina is positioned well to not only participate in, but lead these conversations that should take place at the conference and national level with schools and programs across the spectrum of college athletics.”

In the last year, the University has launched several initiatives to strengthen the academic experience for its nearly 800 student-athletes. Those include “Carolina Leads,” a strategic plan that is a roadmap for all aspects of Carolina athletics, including academics as well as the department’s alignment with the University, competition, finances, community service, and the hiring and training of coaches, administrators and support staff. They also include the creation of the Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group led by new Provost James W. Dean Jr. and Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham; the hiring of Michelle Brown to direct the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes; and an increased role for the Faculty Athletics Committee, led by Chair Joy Renner.

The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes now reports directly to the provost, the University’s chief academic officer. Dean and Cunningham created the working group, announced last month, to examine current practices, procedures, polices and other factors that affect the lives of student-athletes.

“It is very encouraging to know UNC already has in place strong processes and strategies to meet and maintain many of the panel’s recommendations in its various areas of governance, academics and admissions,” Cunningham said. “Some of these have been in place for a number of years, some are a result of the strategic plan, and others should be analyzed both on our campus and with our conference and national peers. It is important that we pay attention to these processes and audit them on a regular basis.”

Several recommendations in the Rawlings panel report focused on admissions. The University’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions considers every candidate comprehensively and holistically, using the quantitative and qualitative indicators recommended by the panel. The admissions office has the final decision-making authority for all candidates for undergraduate admission, including those recruited as student-athletes. A faculty subcommittee assesses whether exceptionally talented candidates, including artists, athletes and musicians, have the will and capacity to succeed academically at Carolina. The admissions office will report on the most recent cohort of first-year student-athletes later this month when the University finalizes first semester enrollment data.

The panel report recommended a consortium of peer universities to look at issues facing intercollegiate athletics. Cunningham concurred, saying that athletics is also already actively partnering with several organizations to examine the role of college athletics in society. The athletic department is currently in the planning stages of a program with UNC’s department of exercise and sports science for faculty to research the impact that athletics has on college campuses. Athletics is also partnering with another major university and the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) educational outreach division, TruSport, to develop a multi-year summit that will look at the many complex issues involving ethics and sport.

“There is tremendous value in working together with other schools and other organizations to sit down on a regular basis and discuss best practices and new models that will help all of us achieve what is our number one priority – to better serve the young men and women in our care and to help them develop and mature into the best students, athletes and citizens possible,” said Cunningham.

Rawlings panel makes recommendations on athletics role in campus life

A panel of distinguished national leaders in higher education and athletics has completed a report with recommendations about the role of athletics in campus life commissioned by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The panel’s suggestions have broad implications for the national higher education community.

The panel, chaired by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities (AAU), was asked to make recommendations for UNC-Chapel Hill and to provide ideas for other universities in addressing a challenging issue for all of higher education. Then Chancellor Holden Thorp appointed the panel earlier this year in response to a 2012 faculty report. The panel convened a roundtable discussion on campus in April.

As president of the AAU, Rawlings leads a nonprofit organization of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada including UNC. A former university president and student-athlete, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Joining Rawlings on the panel were:

  • James Delany, longtime commissioner of the Big Ten Conference and a former NCAA enforcement officer. He holds bachelor’s and law degrees from Carolina, where he was a tri-captain on the men’s basketball team.
  • Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and previously an NCAA employee and athletics administrator at the University of Kansas. She earned academic honors as a Wake Forest student-athlete.
  • Bob Malekoff, associate professor and sport studies chair at Guilford College and a former athletics director and coach. He has written about athletics and sports management.
  • Patricia Timmons-Goodson, former associate justice of the N.C. Supreme Court who holds two UNC-Chapel Hill degrees and served on the N.C. Court of Appeals. She serves on Guilford College’s Board of Trustees.