Boxill Denies Teaching 160 Independent Studies


Jan Boxill, who recently resigned from her position as member of the philosophy faculty at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill following allegations last year that she played a major role in academic fraud involving fake classes there, is now defending herself. She was interviewed recently by The Daily Tar Heel, which reports:

Records obtained by The Daily Tar Heel in November showed that Boxill, a philosophy professor, offered 160 independent study courses between spring 2004 and spring 2012. According to an independent investigation by Kenneth Wainstein, Boxill steered athletes to fake classes in the former Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

Former philosophy department chairman Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, who was the chairman between 2001 and 2011, said in November that teaching more than 150 independent studies is an unusually large number. 

In a phone interview Friday, Boxill defended her independent study courses and clarified department policy during her time there. Boxill said she served as the director of undergraduate studies for the philosophy department from 1994 to 2006. She also said she served as interim director from 2007 to 2008. Boxill said during that time, it was common practice to file all independent studies under the director’s name. She said a number as high as 160 would include independent study courses taught by other faculty members.

More here.

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Gertrude Braggadocio
Gertrude Braggadocio
6 years ago

This is pretty embarrassing, as a defense. Suppose ‘Big Bill’ is being accused of a large Ponzi scheme which defrauded 160 people, and Big Bill’s defence was that ‘hey guys, 160 can’t be right because sometimes people put my name on the finance documents when I wasn’t directly involved in the Ponzi activity’ It’s not like we could then be like ‘ok, Billy, in that case, you are exculpated, that is an excellent defence which clears everything up.’ If Boxill ran even 30, rather than 160, sham classes, that’s pretty darn bad for the director of the Parr Centre for Ethics. There is some serious diminishing marginal utility here which makes quibbling over an enormous number like 160 a red herring.Report

Andrew
Andrew
6 years ago

What if she taught 30 real independent studies in that 9 year period and was named as instructor on another 130 that were real but taught by others? Seems ok to me. (Of course, I don’t know that that is what happened, but I would think that is her claim.)Report

Syd
Syd
6 years ago

I’ve never taught more than 1 independent study per year. If she was director for 13 years, and taught 160, that’s almost a dozen per year. Even if we take her at her word, that those were all of the IS offered by everyone in the dept in that time, that the dept offered a dozen IS per year is suspect. It supports the claim that the student athletes were funneled into paper classes.
The real issue here is bigger than Boxill. One person was not responsible for defrauding all of those athletes of the college education they worked for (by playing sports). That’s a problem with the entire university.Report

Dale Miller
6 years ago

At my university all independent studies list the chair as the instructor of record, at least by default. GB is certainly right that this isn’t much of a defense by itself, if the evidence still suggests that Boxill did supervise some sham independent studies. But if the main piece of evidence that her independent studies were shams just is that she supervised an implausibly high number, then this could turn out to be significant.Report

Katy Abramson
Katy Abramson
6 years ago

As with Dale’s university, at my own, the Chair is listed as instructor of record (here it’s not by default, but necessarily so–it’s the way the course registration program is set up). As for comments 2 and 3 and what’s realistic, speaking only for myself, I don’t think I’ve got a realistic idea of how to make that call. I do have the sense that 160 for a single person is unrealistic, but how many isn’t? I just don’t know. I’ve taught 12 undergraduate independent studies in the last nine years (plus a few graduate ones). That’s more than anyone else in the department (other people, of course, do other things). But I have no idea what’s usual elsewhere, and I wouldn’t know how to begin to figure that out.Report

Avi
Avi
6 years ago

If she was merely instructor of record in her capacity as director of undergraduate studies that still leaves the question as to whether she knew about the fake courses or not. Either way, it is disgraceful. One also wonders what, if any, significant difference there is between being “instructor of record” and “actually teaching” the courses, considering that they were fake.Report

Another Professor
Another Professor
6 years ago

And, holy hell, why did the Philosophy department only have one DUS for a dozen years, who wasn’t even a tenured member of the department?Report