The first clue of no-show classes at UNC-Chapel Hill came when rival N.C. State fans in early July 2011 found plagiarism in a Swahili paper by a former football player. The paper listed Julius Nyang'oro as the professor.
We thought it was newsworthy, and sought to find Nyang'oro for a story we published on the Swahili paper on July 17. We contacted his office and the department, and ultimately, we got this emailed comment from Kim Weaver Spurr, who is a spokeswoman for the College of Arts and Sciences:
"He is traveling in Africa right now. His unc email account is the best way to reach him while he is traveling."
The date of the email is July 14.
Fast forward to May and June of this year. UNC officials announce academic fraud in 54 classes, and say they can't verify that dozens of other independent studies were conducted with academic rigor. One of those no-show classes was AFAM 280, which Nyang'oro sought to place on the academic calendar two days before the 2011 summer session began. It was almost immediately filled with 18 football players and a former player.
According to UNC-CH's academic calendar, that session was supposed to have been held from June 16 through July 19, last year, with exams scheduled July 21-22.
The upshot is if Spurr's email is correct -- and according to an earlier email, it was information she had double checked -- that means Nyang'oro was in Africa for at least some chunk of the summer session in which he was supposed to be teaching a class.
These sessions, by the way, compress a typical three-and-a-half-month semester into little more than a month. So not being around for even a small part of it creates a larger problem.
We pointed out Spurr's email and the summer class schedule to UNC officials two days ago. We have also previously asked whether Nyang'oro was in Africa at the time of this class. When we get clarification from UNC officials -- or from law enforcement officials who are investigating -- we will let you know.