Chapel Hill Whistle-Blower Plagiarized Parts of Her Thesis, Critics Say

Critics of Mary C. Willingham, the former learning specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who raised questions about the literacy of athletes there, have scoured a master’s thesis she wrote in 2009 and say they have found evidence of plagiarism, the News & Observer reports.

The critics have posted online several examples from the thesis in which Ms. Willingham apparently borrowed phrasing from other sources and failed to put those words inside quotation marks. In most of the cases, she did cite the source.

But the paper does not cite one apparent source, a letter written by a congressman to the NCAA in 2006. According to the News & Observer, more than 10 sentences in Ms. Willingham’s paper either “mirror or closely match” the letter, written by Rep. Bill Thomas, a California Republican.

Ms. Willingham told the newspaper that any improper citations or quotations in the thesis were inadvertent.

The newspaper said the passages in question amount to a small percentage of Ms. Willingham’s thesis, written for a degree she earned at the university’s Greensboro campus. But it quoted two experts as saying that the passages raise enough questions that the university should re-examine the thesis.

A spokesman for the Greensboro campus said the university could not answer questions about the thesis because of federal student-privacy law.

Return to Top