More lawsuits in University of North Carolina academic scandal; whistleblower settles

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University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo: CNN)

University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo: CNN)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Three more athletes who say they were scammed out of an education at the University of North Carolina are now suing over academic fraud, and the whistleblower who exposed the fake-class system has now settled her lawsuit with the university.

Former basketball player Kenya McBee has joined former football player Mike McAdoo’s federal class-action lawsuit, claiming the university denied him and thousands of other athletes education when advisers forced him to take classes that never met.

Former basketball player Leah Metcalf, and former football player James Arnold filed a separate but similar class-action lawsuit in state court in North Carolina.

Ken Wainstein, who was hired by the university to act as an independent investigator, revealed in October that academic fraud had taken place at UNC for 18 years, and that UNC officials were wrong when they denied — for nearly five years — that anyone in athletics was involved.

Instead it was players, like McAdoo, who were blamed by the university for cheating and punished by the NCAA.

“All of these student-athletes were promised a legitimate UNC education, were implored to trust UNC academic advising, and were then guided into academically bereft courses against their interests,” said attorney Jeremi Duru, one of the attorneys representing these athletes.

Earlier this year high-profile attorney Michael Hausfeld filed a class-action suit against UNC and the NCAA over the same scandal. About 3,100 students — nearly half of them athletes — who enrolled in the fake classes could easily join these lawsuits.

Mary Willingham, the whistleblower who began revealing details about the sham classes, accused UNC of retaliating against her before she quit last year, and then sued the university to get her job back.

Willingham said that she reached a settlement agreement with the school this week, although it had not yet been approved by a judge. It would compensate her financially but not restore her job as a learning specialist and adviser.

“I wanted to show other potential whistleblowers out there that it’s possible to survive a fight with a big-money machine. I settled because I thought that it was time to get focused back on the issue of athletes and their educations — to correct the injustice in the NCAA system,” she said, adding that the terms of the settlement will become public when it’s finalized.

UNC said, “We believe the settlement is in the best interest of the University and allows us to move forward and fully focus on other important issues.”

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