October 26, 2014

EDITORIAL: Following UNC Scandal, Further Investigation Of Reynolds Is Necessary

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The latest in a series of investigations into an academic scandal at the University of North Carolina released Wednesday implicated a Cornell employee: Cynthia Reynolds, now the academic programs coordinator in the School of Applied and Engineering Physics. For years, athletes and others at UNC received high grades in nonexistent classes in the African and Afro-American studies department and the independent report released Wednesday — written by Kenneth Wainstein, former general counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — acknowledged that administrators steered members of sports teams into the fraudulent classes. We at The Sun believe that Reynolds’ involvement with the scandal raises doubts about her ability to carry out Cornell’s academic mission and call upon President David Skorton and the University to follow through with an investigation into her involvement at UNC and her moral integrity.

According to a report released Wednesday, Departmental Administrator Deborah Crowder and former chair of the African and Afro-American studies department Julius Nyang’oro administered these non-existent courses. During her time at UNC, Reynolds informed Crowder about athletes in need of the fraudulent courses to maintain NCAA eligibility. According to the report, “[Reynolds] and her staff sent [Departmental Administrator Deborah] Crowder lists of players to be enrolled in paper classes each term, and in some cases apparently even indicated for Crowder the grade or grade range the player would need to earn in the class to maintain eligibility.” While it is currently unclear whether or not Reynolds understood the specifics of the operation, according to the report Reynolds understood “that [the courses] were a key element of her strategy for keeping some players eligible.”

The fraudulent classes clearly undermined academic integrity and grossly underserved students in terms of an education. Many students in the basketball and football programs could read only up to an eighth-grade level. Moreover, these bogus courses and fraudulent grading practices clearly violate all four general principles of Cornell’s Code of Academic Conduct, which condemns students gaining an unfair advantage, something Reynolds is accused of facilitating in her role at UNC.

Given her alleged involvement in this scandal, we at The Sun question her ability to follow our Code of Academic Conduct in her role as an academic administrator. In an effort to ensure that this standard is upheld, we call upon President Skorton and the administration to investigate her involvement and evaluate whether or not she can properly perform her duties at Cornell.