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Willingham weighing 'options' on response to UNC

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

The University of North Carolina reading specialist who captured national headlines and caught heat from UNC leaders for her research, is not ruling out the possibility of a lawsuit.

Mary Willingham told CNN last month her research of 183 football or basketball players at UNC from 2004-12 found 60 percent reading at fourth- to eighth-grade levels and roughly 10 percent below a third-grade level.

UNC announced last month it had notified Willingham she can't continue to use data with information that could identify the subjects until she applies to the university's review board that governs human research.

UNC's provost James Dean told faculty in a January public meeting that research questioning academic abilities of UNC athletes was "a travesty."

Dean attempted to discredit her data in that meeting.

This week, the Daily Tar Heel quoted Willingham as saying she would consider suing Dean as a result of his statements.

In an email to WNCN Tuesday, Willingham said, "I am carefully weighing all my options."

Her email went on to say, "The problem is that all of these distractions take away from the real issue that we need to focus on - educational inequality promoted by the college sport system. I am hopeful that change is coming. This conversation needs to be taking place at all NCAA DI institutions. Our profit sport athletes must be given the rights and representation that they deserve, and that has yet to happen. Northwestern might just lead the way, good for them."

UNC spokeswoman Karen Moon said "the University declines to comment about speculation on possible litigation."

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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