UNC: $7.5M spent on legal, PR from academic scandal

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- UNC Chapel Hill said they spent over $7.5 million on legal, PR expenses to date from the recent academic scandal.

UNC posted detailed information on the Carolina Commitment website in response to a public records request from The News & Observer seeking "legal/public relations bills for the UNC scandal."

The university said it estimates they spent approximately $7,565,940 to date for services from three law firms and one public relations agency.

The bills from the law firms came from mid-2014 and mid-2015. One of the law firm's invoices dated back to late 2012, according to UNC.

Last November, UNC said they spent over $3 million on the 131-page Kenneth Wainstein investigation, which uncovered 18 years of academic fraud at the university.

In those 18 years, the report showed 3,100 students were enrolled in paper classes, many of them were athletes. Those classes required little to no work. Over the span of almost two decades, the report showed student athletes were steered toward those classes to boost their grades and eligibility.

No state-appropriated or tuition dollars are being used for the expenses, according to the university.

In the release, UNC said that it is common for major universities to hire outside firms and that it is more cost-effective than hiring additional permanent staff.

The university said they are "responding to an unprecedented combination of simultaneous issues," which include:

  • Pending class-action lawsuits from former student-athletes and former employees.

  • A pending NCAA investigation.

  • A pending review of academic reforms from the South Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, a regional accrediting agency.

  • Two public records requests - the largest in university history. Lawfirm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP compiled a database of almost 1.7 million unique electronic records which was about 5 million pages.

  • A sharply rising volume of regular public records requests.

  • Pending personnel reviews resulting from the 2014 Wainstein report.

  • Leadership transitions in the Office of University Counsel because the vice chancellor and general counsel left to accept positions at other institutions.

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