Reviewed 04/2024

In Fall 2013, former Provost James W. Dean, Jr. and Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham brought together a 10-person team of campus leaders to do something that we believe no other University had done before: comprehensively document and assess all academic processes that affect student-athletes from the time that they are recruited until after they graduate.  With Chancellor Carol L. Folt’s direction and support, Dean and Cunningham led the Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group in this effort. When the Working Group was organized, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was still in the midst of investigating academic and athletic irregularities. We knew that we needed to make changes at Carolina to address these issues and promote academic integrity. At the time, in fall 2013, the University was under new leadership, including a new Chancellor, new Provost and new Athletic Director. We needed a clear and comprehensive understanding of academics for student-athletes in order to move forward. The Chancellor charged the Working Group to look holistically at academic processes for student-athletes and improve student-athletes’ experience at Carolina. 

The Working Group met at least once per month between November 2013 and March 2015, and meetings were posted in accordance to the North Carolina Open Meetings Law. By summer 2015, the Working Group had documented, assessed and in some cases changed, a comprehensive set of 21 academic processes for student-athletes, from the time they are recruited until after they graduate. The Group considered and responded to more than 70 recommendations from nine reports about athletics and academics at UNC-Chapel Hill published during the previous four years. Interim updates were shared with the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees, as well as with campus committees, including the Faculty Executive Committee, the Faculty Athletics Committee, the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) Advisory Committee and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The Working Group also gave updates via the Carolina Commitment website. 

This website is organized around these 21 processes and includes comprehensive descriptions, as well as changes made and responses to various report recommendations. Our goal was to make this detailed information complete, transparent and easy to access. The site is also accessible through the Carolina Commitment site. 

Academic Processes for Student-Athletes:

0.0 Guiding Principles
1.0 Recruitment
2.0 Admissions
3.0 Financial Aid
4.0 Orientation and Summer Programs
5.0 Enrollment and Advising
6.0 Registration
7.0 Academic Support for Student-Athletes
8.0 Faculty Relations and Governance
9.0 Class Attendance and Travel
10.0 Resources for Student-Athletes with Disabilities
11.0 Eligibility and Compliance
12.0 Academic Performance Monitoring
13.0 Communications and Recognition
14.0 Budgeting
15.0 Facility Use and Programming
16.0 Carolina Housing
17.0 Honor System
18.0 Student Athlete Development
19.0 Supporting Non-Participant Student-Athletes
20.0 Focus Groups and Surveys
21.0 Ongoing Review and Improvement of Processes

0.0 Guiding Principles of the Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group

  • UNC-Chapel Hill is committed to providing a rigorous and meaningful education to every student. To that end, UNC-Chapel Hill supports and encourages students to participate fully in the life of the campus, prepare themselves well for life after college and develop their potential to the greatest extent possible. 
  • All students should be permitted and encouraged to take full advantage of the rich menu of educational opportunities at UNC-Chapel Hill and to pursue educational experiences appropriate to their interests, ambitions and capabilities. 
  • Everyone offered admission to UNC-Chapel Hill must have demonstrated the capacity to benefit fully from a UNC-Chapel Hill education and earn a UNC-Chapel Hill degree. Every candidate must be evaluated rigorously, individually and comprehensively. 
  • Academic integrity is inviolable. It is never acceptable for any person or unit to compromise, or allow to be compromised, the integrity of the education, research or service missions of the University. 
  • Respect for students—for their achievements and potential, and above all for their humanity—is also inviolable. 
  • The policies and processes governing student-athletes’ academic lives at UNC-Chapel Hill should be fully transparent and documented. 


The Working Group considered and reviewed many academic reforms that have taken place at Carolina over the past several years, including:

    • Improved evidence-based admission standards for student-athletes 
    • Requirement that all student-athletes meet with an academic advisor at least once per semester 
    • Change in organizational structure for the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, which now reports directly to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost 
    • Individualized academic planning for student-athletes with the implementation of the My Academic Plan program 
    • Restructured oversight and review of academic departments 
    • New policy for independent study courses and course numbering 

The group determined that, after several years of scrutiny and reform, most current academic processes for student-athletes at Carolina are reasonable and sound. However, in some cases we implemented changes (listed below). Some of these changes remain constant and are reflected in the current policies while others have continued to evolve and changed again. Current practices are documented under the policies pages.

  • New Office of Undergraduate Admissions brochure, was available publicly and created with student-athlete recruits in mind, that communicated academic requirements and expectations, including new NCAA eligibility standards (Process  and 2.0) This brochure is no longer available but was used for several years. 
  • Changes and improvements to book scholarship process for student-athletes (Process 3.0) 
  • Improved orientation and transition programs for first-year and transfer student-athletes (Process 4.0) 
  • Changes and improvements to priority registration for student-athletes (Process 6.0) 
  • New website for the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, which provides comprehensive information about the services that they provide (Process 7.0) 
  • Guidelines for effective communication between faculty, academic counselors and coaches (Process 7.0) 
  • Clarification and improvement of travel and attendance policies (Process 9.0) 
  • New exam proctoring policy related to student-athlete travel (Process 9.0) 
  • Earlier screening for some student-athletes for the identification and documentation of learning disabilities (Process 10.0) 
  • Improved communication and coordination between Department of Athletics Compliance Office, Office of the University Registrar, the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes and faculty throughout the process of certifying student-athlete eligibility (Process 11.0) 
  • Enhanced support for students on academic probation, provided by the Office of Undergraduate Education Retention (Process 11.0). This office has since been absorbed under UNC Advising. 
  • Additional Fall and Spring semester sections of EDUC 130 – Navigating the Research University (Process 11.0). This course has since been replaced with IDST 101 – College Thriving. 
  • Additional section of a leadership course offered to members of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (Process 18.0) 
  • Expanded coordination between the Department of Athletics Student-Athlete Development staff and the Office of Career Services (Process 18.0) 
  • Improved process by which returning student-athletes may complete their UNC-Chapel Hill degree (Process 19.0) 
  • Ongoing review and improvement of academic processes for student-athletes  (Process 21.0) 
  • Newly implemented project management and issues tracking software to be used collaboratively by the Process Review Group and the Faculty Athletics Committee (Process 21.0) 

Working Group Members (2013-2015)

  • James W. Dean, Jr., Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
  • Bubba Cunningham, Athletics Director
  • Anna Agbe-Davies, Assistant Professor, Anthropology
  • Lissa Broome, Distinguished Professor, School of Law; Faculty Athletics Representative
  • Michelle Brown, Assistant Provost and Director of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes
  • Deborah Clarke, Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
  • Stephen Farmer, Vice Provost, Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions
  • Vince Ille, Senior Associate Athletic Director
  • James Johnson, Distinguished Professor, Kenan-Flagler Business School
  • Andrew Perrin, Professor, Sociology

Moving Forward

UNC-Chapel Hill will continue to support an atmosphere of academic and athletic excellence. A group of University leaders continues to monitor, review, assess, document, and recommend improvements to academic processes related to student-athletes at UNC-Chapel Hill (see Process 21.0). This website will continue to be updated to reflect these changes.