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Former UNC Afro-American studies instructor indicted

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

The former chairman of the African and Afro-American Studies Department at the University of North Carolina has been indicted by a grand jury.

Julius Nyang'Oro was indicted around noon Monday in relation to the UNC academic scandal, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said.

Nyang'oro was forced into an early retirement in the summer of 2012, but had not been charged with any crimes.

The long-running scandal led to the firing of football coach Butch Davis, the eventual resignation of chancellor Holden Thorp, and revealed problems in the African and Afro-American Studies Department, as athletes took classes with little oversight.

In a statement, UNC president Tom Ross said, "In the spring of 2012, then Chancellor Holden Thorp and I directed that the State Bureau of Investigation be notified of possible criminal activity stemming from the academic fraud issues that had taken place at the Chapel Hill campus. 

"Following a more than year-long SBI investigation and thorough review by District Attorney Woodall, an indictment was returned today against former faculty member Julius Nyang'oro, who was identified by the initial campus investigation as one of the two individuals responsible for the academic irregularities that occurred in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. 

"We fully support the district attorney's decision to seek an indictment in this case."

The issues came to light in 2011 after a summer course included almost entirely football players. The irregularities dated back to 2007.

Ross, in a previous interview, said the problems centered around two people once employed by UNC.

One was the department administrator, Deborah Crowder, who retired a couple of years before the problems were discovered. The other person at the heart of the matter was Nyang'oro.

District Attorney Jim Woodall said one more person could face multiple indictments, but would not confirm if that person is Crowder.

He said Nyang'oro will likely face just the one indictment.

"We looked at several charges. But it's like I said very early on in this case, I didn't think there would be a lot of criminal activity that would be uncovered, and quite frankly we didn't," Woodall said.

"We did find probable cause to find that there were some crimes committed and we're going to charge for those crimes."

Ross said firing Nyang'oro would have no impact on his state pension and could have led to a costly appeal.

Nyang'oro was hired in July 1990. His salary at the time of his resignation was $159,249.

UNC has put in place new rules about how many independent study courses a professor can supervise have been put in place. There are now limits on what students qualify to take them. A contract with specific expectations for students must be created. A new electronic database for grades will now be in place.

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