The Raleigh News & Observer reported late Monday night that the University of North Carolina has agreed on a settlement package with a key figure in the academic scandal that’s plagued the university for more than a decade.
Mary Willingham, the whistleblower on the fraud-grades/classes story — and a former academic advisor at the school — agreed to be paid $335,000, and with that payment she will drop her civil suit against North Carolina. Willingham brought a suit last July against the UNC-Chapel Hill system, claiming she was targeted and unfairly treated after her myriad claims of academic fraud that occured inside and outside of the UNC athletic department.
“We believe the settlement is in the best interest of the university and allows us to move forward and fully focus on other important issues,” UNC spokesman Rick White said in a statement.
Willingham said once legal fees are deducted from the $335,000, she will have the equivalent of three years’ salary. She made roughly $60,000 a year.
“It gets me out far enough that I will be able to get a job,” Willingham said.
Willingham left the university in the spring of 2014.
Willingham worked at UNC’s Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling and helped guide dozens of athletes over a seven-year period. She has been a frequent and vocal critic of the North Carolina academic deception scandal, calling for harsh punishment and intense scrutiny on the university and athletic department therein. She also has made claims that many former North Carolina athletes fell far short of basic academic qualifications, like reading and writing comprehension at a college level.
Last summer, shortly before Willingham first filed the suit, UNC announced the NCAA was re-opening its case. To date, that case is still ongoing and there is no timeline for a notice of allegations from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions. Typically, the NCAA doesn’t delve into matters of academic fraud if such cases involved athletes and non-athletes alike.
With UNC’s case allegedly spanning back to the mid-1990s and involving dozens of former football and basketball players, it presents an unprecedented situation for college sports’ governing body to deal with.