Owens hit by more lawsuits PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by By MARIE THOMAS Sentinel Education Editor   
Tuesday, 08 December 2009 10:32
File photo. Owens Board of Trustees meeting to discuss nursing accreditation problems with faculty and student body. 11/19/09 (Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
Eighty-three students have filed two new lawsuits against Owens Community College, accusing the college of negligence in the loss of its national nursing accreditation.
The suits, files Dec. 1 in the Ohio Court of Claims, contend that Owens' negligence in maintaining accreditation has curtailed - or eliminated - nursing students' ability to transfer their credits in order to continue working toward a bachelor degree in nursing.
The college's conduct "exhibited a conscious disregard for the rights and future of each current and prospective student enrolling in Owens' nursing program," states the suit, filed by 59 students on the Perrysburg Township campus, 17 of whom are from Wood County.
Twenty-four students from the Findlay campus have filed a separate lawsuit, outlining the same complaints.
The law firm of Cooper & Elliott, LLC, in Columbus, is representing students in both cases.
The college along with Provost Paul Unger, nursing department Chairperson Cynthia Hall, and President Christa Adams are named as plaintiffs, as are 30 John Does who, according to the suits, knew the college was in jeopardy of losing its accreditation and "participated in covering up this vital information to Owens' students and prospective students."
Hall remains on paid administrative leave pending an internal inquiring into the lost accreditation, Adams has announced her plan to retire in January 2011, and Unger just recently received a vote of no confidence by the Owens Faculty Association.
The Ohio Court of Claims has jurisdiction to handled all civil actions failed against the State of Ohio and its agencies. Owens, as a state community college, falls under OCC jurisdiction.
"We are not able to enter into discussion as of this time as to matters of pending litigation," according to college spokesperson Brad Meyer.
The suits claim the college failed to inform current and prospective students that accreditation with the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission was in jeopardy.
Students claim the college not only violated the state's Consumer Sales Practices Act, by engaging in conduct that was unfair or deceptive, but also is accountable for a breach of contract with students by not providing the appropriate nursing training and maintaining NLNAC accreditation.
By failing to inform students of the nursing program's probationary status, which dates to 2007, and by failing to take action to remain accredited, the college has caused economic and emotional distress to students, according to the lawsuits.
In both suits, the plaintiffs are asking for compensation in excess of $25,000 each; the total amount requested, via the two lawsuits, is $2,075,000
The new suits are in addition to a lawsuit filed Nov. 5 in Wood County Common Pleas Court on behalf of four nursing students enrolled on the Perrysburg Township campus. The attorney in that case has asked the court to certify the case as a class action to include all students enrolled from July 1 to Nov. 6.
In response to the firestorm of student and faculty accusations, Owens in November established a School of Nursing which, administrators say, will eliminate the communication gaps at the root of the lapsed accreditation. The school is expected to open by Jan. 4.
The college received notification in early August that the NLNAC accreditation, held since 1974, had been lost. Since then, the college has developed plan, led by faculty within the nursing department, to reacquire the accreditation.
One standard the college has not met is the requirement that at least 51 percent of nursing faculty hold a master of nursing degree. According to information previously released by Vice Provost Renay Scott, all 21 full-time nursing faculty have an MSN degree; the majority of part-time, or adjunct, faculty, however, do not. Eight adjuncts hold MSNs, and 13 are in MSN programs, she said.
According to numbers provided by the college, there are 133 adjunct nursing faculty this semester plus 21 full-time faculty, two administrators and 62 full- and part-time clinical and lab staff. There are 783 students enrolled in the nursing program.

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