November 9, 2014

Cornell Refuses to Investigate Employee Implicated in UNC Scandal

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The University will not conduct a separate investigation as to whether the Cornell employee implicated in the University of North Carolina’s academic scandal is fit to work at Cornell, President David Skorton said in an interview with The Sun last week.

An investigation released Oct. 22 revealed details of the scandal at UNC, where thousands of students — mostly athletes — were funneled into bogus classes and required to write a single paper that would automatically receive a high grade.

Cynthia Reynolds, the current academic programs coordinator in the School of Applied Engineering Physics, was implicated for her involvement in the report conducted by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein. The investigation alleged that Reynolds was responsible for telling a colleague the grades athletes needed in order to pass the class and remain eligible to play.

Weeks later, President Skorton, in an interview with The Sun on Wednesday, said the University would not conduct an investigation into Reynold’s role in the scandal, echoing similar comments made by Cornell.

“This is not something that happened at Cornell and wouldn’t be appropriate for me to try to initiate an investigation from here of what the persons alleged have done at another campus,” Skorton said.

He added that the allegation does not necessarily correlate to whether Reynolds is fit to continue to work for Cornell.

“In … fitness in terms of working here — I’m not exactly sure what to say about that,” Skorton said. “She’s working in a kind of different position here, and I must say that I believe that an allegation is an allegation, and so the processes we have here for overseeing employee hiring and monitoring are robust processes.”

Reynolds, who refused to cooperate with the Wainstein investigation, will “fully cooperate” with an additional National College Athletic Association investigation, according to Joel Malina, vice president for university relations.

“We will continue to support Ms. Reynolds in assisting the NCAA investigation,” Malina said in a statement. “To that end, we will provide paid release time for Ms. Reynolds to speak with NCAA investigators.”

Malina added that Reynolds participated in a previous NCAA investigation and that none of the events that took place at UNC did not occur at Cornell.

“Cornell University is firmly committed to adherence to the NCAA’s standards of ethical conduct and its standards related to academic eligibility,” he said.

Skorton said he was “proud” of the student athletes and the athletic program at Cornell, adding that “there should be no bending of” NCAA rules.

“There should be no looking the other way because someone is a well-performing athlete,” Skorton said.