Report on Independent Study Clears Athletics

Auburn announced its findings on a study into independent study classes at the university and charges that athletes may have received preferential treatment.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn University has completed its study of charges of preferential academic treatment for athletes in independent studies courses and announced on Friday the university's investigation of the matter is complete and that athletes did not receive preferential treatment.

The announcement from the university stated, "A committee of academic administrators has found that irregularities in Auburn University's directed studies program were limited to one professor each in the sociology and adult education departments and caused by a lack of oversight and poor record-keeping."

There were no surprises for athletic department officials in the report, who had previously stated that they believed there was no wrongdoing on the part of student-athletes or athletic department officials.

Jay Jacobs

"This is an academic issue and after reading the report, it is evident that there was no preferential treatment towards Auburn student-athletes or academic fraud committed by student-athletes," said Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs.

On August 10th, Auburn president Dr. Ed Richardson said that Auburn's internal investigation of AU's directed readings classes and independent studies classes found no evidence of any wrongdoing by Auburn athletes or members of the university's athletic department. Richardson announced that academic changes were being made, but noted that athletics was brought into the equation to draw more interest to media reports on the subject.

"This is clearly an academic problem for Auburn University," Richardson said. "I believe athletics was infused into this discussion to provide sufficient traction to make it newsworthy." He added that what he believes was an isolated academic problem has been corrected by policies that are currently in effect.

On Friday, Richardson said, "We have outstanding academic programs at Auburn and our new policies only enhance those programs. I'm confident that Auburn is a stronger institution today because we have addressed this issue directly and openly."

In August, Richardson said he did not anticipate in problems for AU from SACS, its accreditation agency or the NCAA on the subject and that has not changed. On Friday, AU announced it was forwarding a copy of its findings to the NCAA, which is not expected to take any action on the matter.

Richardson made it clear he was unhappy with what he called an excessive number of directed readings classes being taught in two academic units--the department of sociology, anthropology, criminology and social work in the College of Liberal Arts and the adult education program, which is in the department of educational foundations, leadership and technology in the College of Education.

In August, Richardson announced the men in charge of those departments, Thomas Petee (sociology, anthropology, criminology and social work ) and James E. Witte (adult education), had stepped down from their positions and Richardson made it clear that was done at his insistence. Both men, who are tenured professors, continue to teach classes.

The investigation was launched after an anonymous allegation was received via the university's Ethicspoint website charging Dr. Thomas Petee, Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work, with giving athletes grades and credit for fake courses that were listed by Dr. Petee but not met or taught.

The subject received widespread attention after sociology professor Thomas Gundlach told newspaper reporters that he believed Petee was giving preferential treatment to athletes in his independent study classes in addition to teaching too heavy of a course load. The university report found that Petee was teaching too many classes, but did not find preferential treatment for athletes.

In August, Richardson announced a new policy limiting the number of independent studies classes a professor can teach.

The university's report is on the link:

AU's Report

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