Tuesday, January 21, 2014

NWACC College Criticism Sparks Review

Publication: Benton County Daily Record;  Date: Jan 17, 2014; 
Section: News;  Page: 1

College Criticism Sparks Review


BENTONVILLE - The president of NorthWest Arkansas Community College said this week she is investigating claims of bullying by instructors and other problems in the school's nursing program.

An email, signed only by a Concerned NWACC Nursing Class of 2014 states two instructors have singled out students to bully, harass and sabotage their efforts to learn. It also criticizes teaching techniques and alleges the program initially failed 63 percent of the class for the fall semester, then changed grades to reflect a 20 percent failure rate.

The email was sent last week to several college administrators, including Evelyn Jorgenson, president, and Steven Gates, senior vice president for learning and provost. We are taking the allegations from these anonymous students very seriously, Jorgenson said in a statement emailed from the college. I am personally looking into the situation and reviewing all available information.

Steven Hinds, college director of public relations and marketing, said the college does not know who wrote the email. There were 122 students enrolled in the program during the fall semester. No grievances or grade appeals were filed in the program last semester, he said. There are several ways students may file a grievance either in person or anonymously, Hinds said. They include contacting the human resources department or the department's dean. Students also may use the student grievance process or the Ethics Reporting Hotline, Hinds said.

NWA Media contacted the writer of the email, who declined to give her name. The woman said she believes her letter speaks for just about every student in the nursing program. No grievances were filed last semester because students have seen what happens to people who do that, she said. Either you become a bigger target or nothing changes, the woman said. She said she is in the process of filing a complaint at the state level.

The college received a similar email a year ago, also written anonymously, expressing concerns about the nursing program. However, we don't know the identity of the person or who to approach to get more information, he said. No one contacted my office or the president's office.

The most recent email states instructors are simply reading PowerPoint presentations to students and students are not being taught. Every single student in our class learns by studying on our own, the email states. We learn nothing from our instructors. There's no reason to believe instructors are not following proper teaching techniques, Hinds said.

The email also states the nursing program failed 63 percent of the class last semester and alleges the administration changed students' grades to reflect only a 20 percent failure rate.
We have screen shots of our grades changing by the minute after the final exam was taken, the email states.

That allegation is questionable because the college's grade system is not live time, so students can't watch faculty members enter grades, Hinds said. It is possible, however, for final grades to change during a particular day as assignment or test scores are entered.

The college's nursing program is respected among area hospitals, Jorgenson said. Hospital administrators who hire our nursing graduates continually offer positive feedback about how well prepared these individuals are, she said.

Washington Regional Medical Center often hires nurses who have gone through the college's program, said Steve Percival, the hospital's vice president of human resources. They've been clinically sound, Percival said. I'm not aware of any issues with them.

The email also points out the college's nursing program is not accredited. Nursing students are going through an invalid program!!!!, the email states. The program, which began in 1990, has the approval of the Arkansas State Board of Nursing, but is not nationally accredited, Hinds said. The college is going through that process now.

The first step toward national accreditation is to ensure all full-time faculty and at least half of the adjunct faculty have master's degrees. The college met that requirement in August. Completing the accreditation process likely will take another year, Hinds said.

All Arkansas nursing programs leading to licensure must be approved by the Board of Nursing in order for their graduates to be eligible for licensure as a nurse, said Sue Tedford, director of the Board of Nursing. Once a program has obtained full approval, it is resurveyed every five years. However, if issues arise in between visits, the Board of Nursing may review the program at that time, Tedford said.

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