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CSUN Investigates Ma's Work in Class

Academics: Volleyball star faces allegations another person did assignments, took test for her.

March 19, 1998|MIKE BRESNAHAN and ERIC SONDHEIMER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

NORTHRIDGE — Cal State Northridge is investigating allegations that Nancy Ma, the top player on the Matador women's volleyball team, committed academic fraud by allowing schoolwork and a test to be completed by another person, school officials said Wednesday.

Judy Brame, associate athletic director, said she began looking into the matter last week after women's volleyball assistant coach Kathleen O'Laughlin informed her of possible academic improprieties involving Ma, a junior from China who speaks limited English.

"[O'Laughlin] said someone had come forward [and] there was a possibility someone had taken a test for Nancy or written papers," Brame said.

As part of the investigation, Brame said she has spoken with six players and an assistant professor in the psychology department who administered a test earlier this month.

Brame said the professor, Sheila Grant, has a completed Psychology 150 exam in her possession that matches Ma's numerical identification. However, Brame said she does not know if Grant was present for the exam taken by 97 students.

"The instructor says there's been one exam given and as far as she knows, Nancy took it," Brame said.

O'Laughlin and Lian Lu, coach of the women's volleyball team, said Wednesday they thought Brame had completed her investigation. But Brame said she has yet to interview Ma or players from last season who are no longer on the team.

Ma could not be reached for comment.

Ron Kopita, Northridge's vice president of student affairs, said academic improprieties are taken seriously by the university.

'If there's any merit [to the allegations], the expectation would be a full investigation," Kopita said. He said an academic investigation would be conducted by Dr. Tom Shannon, faculty athletic representative.

Mark Jones, a director of rules enforcement for the NCAA, said academic fraud is a serious offense.

"I think generally, any time you have someone taking tests for a player or prospect, that's a real concern for us, as well as doing homework," Jones said.

O'Laughlin said Ma has been doing well in school and going to class.

"To my knowledge, nobody has done homework for our student-athletes," O'Laughlin said.

Lu, who has been Northridge's coach for five years, said he would honor the findings of the investigation.

"If you're talking about our students [not] studying, I'd be concerned," he said. "We have to respect the facts."

Brame said she has known Ma, 25, since her arrival from Kai Feng, China, two years ago.

"I don't have any doubt about her credibility," Brame said. "That doesn't mean I won't follow up on what is a concern. She needs to be cleared. If it's a rumor, it's a horrendous rumor."

Ma set a school season record in 1996 with 456 kills, leading Northridge to the Big Sky Conference championship. Last September, she tore ligaments and cartilage in her right knee and missed the rest of her junior season. She is expected to resume practice next month.

Eric Sondheimer is a Times staff writer. Mike Bresnahan is a correspondent.

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