Jan Boxill’s Side of the Story


In February of 2015, Jan Boxill resigned from her teaching professorship in the Philosophy Department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, following allegations of her involvement in a massive, 18-year long period of academic fraud in which some student athletes were steered towards phony classes that never met and assigned papers that were graded—when they were—by the department’s office manager, often based on the grade the student atheletes “needed.”

Following the release of a new report on the case—including a list of specific allegations against her—Boxill met with reporters from The News & Observer. The result is an article that gives more of her side of the story.

Boxill maintains she was not part of the fake class scheme in African and Afro-American Studies, led by former department chairman, Julius Nyang’oro, though she often recommended AFAM courses to her students. She said she had no idea the office manager, Deborah Crowder, was grading students’ papers, though Boxill emailed Crowder about students’ work and Crowder referred to “favors.”

The accusations against Boxill largely were based on emails between her and women’s basketball players. The emails paint a picture of a faculty member who had frequent exchanges with her students, providing content and ideas while they were writing papers.

Boxill, though, said the emails were taken out of context—snippets from what were typically lengthy back-and-forth interactions with discussions, drafts and rewrites. She said she gave students ideas to get them thinking, or sample paragraphs to show them what they needed to do for themselves. It is simply, she said, an instructional approach she finds effective.

“I certainly never consciously crossed the line. But secondly, I can see why some people might say that they would do it differently,” she said. “I see this as a good teaching technique. I think most philosophy professors do, but I can see people thinking that it’s not the right way to do things. And some people might even say it’s wrong…”

Jean DeSaix, UNC teaching professor in biology, said there are some things that don’t add up about the accusations.

“On the one hand, Jan is accused of helping people too much with papers. I’m going to guess that some of those papers were for the very courses that she’s accused of knowing they weren’t really getting graded,” DeSaix said. “So why would she be spending all this time helping these students with all these papers, if she knew it wasn’t going to matter what they wrote? The logic there is just bizarre—or the lack of logic.”

The whole article is here.

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