By Alley Oakley
NCAA investigators returned to campus last week with more questions about the UNC football team—and, in particular, the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, better known to students as AFAM.
The department’s reputation has taken a beating in the last two months, as numerous details have surfaced. Former Tar Heel Michael McAdoo lost his eligibility after UNC’s Student Honor Court discovered he’d plagiarized part of an African Studies paper; online bloggers later uncovered even more extensive plagiarism than the Honor Court found.
More recently, department chair Julius Nyang’oro hired an active NFL agent, Carl Carey, Jr., to teach a summer class in the department. That revelation led to the return of NCAA investigators and cost Nyang’oro his position as chair.
African and Afro-American Studies is the fourth most popular major for football players, and all these revelations have fueled allegations that the program is an “easy A” for athletes looking to coast through UNC. But is that, in fact, the reality?
UNC senior Jordie Curles, a football team manager, says there’s one big reason he takes AFAM classes.
“I heard about AFAM classes from someone who graduated,” he says, “and they said it would be an easy elective to take to help pad my GPA.”
Junior Bryant Pope, a Political Science major, had different reasons for taking his AFAM course—but a similar experience. “At the beginning it was a lot of reading,” he says, “but…as it progressed it was kind of easier.”
Some students majoring in African and Afro-American Studies, though, say their department is getting a bad name.
Senior Fola Gòkè-Paríolá has a huge stack of AFAM textbooks in the corner of his desk that he uses for his classes, and he says those classes are pretty challenging.
“I think a lot of people refer to AFAM classes as easy A’s because many people who are AFAM majors are really dedicated to the topics,” he says. “(They’re) going to do the reading and go to class…
“We’re not doing the major for any reason other than (the fact that) we’re interested in it, and we want to have a career that has something to do with it.”
But does the Department of African and Afro-American Studies have the highest percentage of A’s? A UNC Faculty Council study from 2009 says no.
Click here to read. (Relevant data in Appendix C.)
The study lists the average grades and the percentage of A’s in each department. In 2007, 55 percent of AFAM grades were A’s—a very high percentage, but significantly lower than several other departments on UNC’s campus, most notably Education and Environmental Studies.
In 2007, 76 percent of all the grades given in Environmental Studies were A’s. In Education, the number was 77 percent.