University discrimination - what do you do when you fail 4th year?

  1. 2
    For all you busy people out there, I will provide a short version and long version to my story.

    Short version:
    I was a 4th year RN student taking the last course necessary for the degree and my instructor failed my written assignments. The school has a bit of a reputation for discriminating against male nursing students like myself.

    What education/career choices are there for me that preferably utilizes a lot of my credits?
    What can I do to prevent more students from being treated as unfairly as I was?
    Is it feasible to attempt to sue the university?
    /short version.

    Long version:
    I'll summarize this as much as possible.

    I was doing my acute care focus for 4th year and was doing great. The focus was 2 courses - a theory class and the clinical. I passed the class and at my mid-term evaluation my clinical instructor marked me as meeting or surpassing all expectations. After this point I fell sick for a few weeks and was unable to successfully complete clinical, so I had to repeat it the following year.

    The following year the program changed slightly by merging the two acute courses into one big one - this meant that although I already passed the theory class, I had to take it again.

    Initially I was doing well in this course. Clinical was going well and I had no problem with the mid term exam in the theory class. The theory class had two case studies that needed to be done during clinical - just like last year - and I already passed it the first time (in fact I got 100% on case study 1 the previous year) so I was pretty confident when I did another one and handed it in. Afterward, I was pretty shocked to find that the instructor failed it. After getting A's and B's in every written assignment throughout university, the same calibre of work no longer merited a pass. This was an automatic fail for the course but she told me I could rewrite it. The rewrite was a huge additional burden to an already hectic 4th year workload but I did so, and was quite confident that the rewrite would pass. Once again, it failed. They claimed that the papers showed knowledge deficits - which is interesting considering that I had already passed the course. This meant that even if I passed everything else in the course, I would still fail. My only recourse was to appeal - which I did after the course was over.

    I continued on with the theory course and the clinical and handed in case study #2 - which was probably the finest work I have ever submitted. It failed. So I rewrote it - that failed too. I showed these case studies to 3 other nurses, 2 of which were nursing instructors (whom I have never met) and they all agreed that they deserved a passing grade.

    The issues at the university were weighing heavily on me during clinical. For the first time in my life I started seeing a counsellor. I fought through the stress and extra workload (the two case studies, plus they added other assignments for me to do) and during mid term evaluation, my clinical instructor marked me as satisfactory in every category. He marked my evaluation as satisfactory in every category for my final evaluation as well.

    When I went in for my final evaluation there were supposed to be 3 other people there: my clinical instructor, my theory instructor, and my program instructor (the latter two of which have been collaborating to fail my assignments and give me negative feedback throughout the semester). This is so all 3 can provide input to decide if I pass or fail the course.
    For whatever reason, my clinical instructor was not there. They claimed that they could not get a hold of him but proceeded to break school policy and evaluate me without his input anyway. The only input that was provided by my instructor was the written evaluation in which he marked me as being satisfactory in every category. Despite this, they said that there were some concerns about my clinical performance and so they failed me for clinical as well as the theory. They crossed off some of my instructor's 'satisfactory' checkmarks on my evaluation and checked the 'unsatisfactory' boxes instead. Evidently, from the comfort of their offices in the university they knew more about my clinical performance than the instructor who actually watched my performance on the floor for over 300 hours.

    I mentioned all this and more when I submitted my appeal and they denied it anyway and I was failed from the nursing program.

    So now I am here to ask two things:

    1) Is there anything I can do to prevent something like this from happening to others? (One person told me that instructors are able to destroy students without concern since the university can drag lawsuits out for years until you give up). And is there a chance that I could be compensated for what they did?

    2) What are some career choices that I can look into that utilize my credits? I passed all my 4th year classes save for that one. I have considered psychiatric nursing (mental illness is fascinating to me) but the idea of so much more schooling is daunting to me. Perhaps there are some technical fields that are in big demand. I'm wide open to suggestions.
    man-nurse2b and TheCommuter like this.
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  4. 22 Comments so far...

  5. 1

    When you did the re-writes, did you request feedback on what you could do to improve your paper and make it satisfactory?

    I don't see how this is discriminatory. If there were several male students in your class who had the same experience, then that would raise eyebrows.
    elkpark likes this.
  6. 1
    Quote from OCNRN63

    When you did the re-writes, did you request feedback on what you could do to improve your paper and make it satisfactory?

    I don't see how this is discriminatory.
    If there were several male students in your class who had the same experience, then that would raise eyebrows.
    I think what I highlighted above is what the OP is trying to say. He seems to be a diligent student and the instructors are being vague.

    To the OP, I can tell you now that there were tons of discrimination against male students at my nursing school. In my RN-BSN program (where the students were older, married with families) it was almost embarrassing how one of the instructors would openly flirt with several male students in the class...they did, horrible, shoddy work and got higher grades than most other students. One, had been a nurse for only a year and wrote a ridiculously detailed health assessment....featuring points that were not even in our textbook...this guy was a borderline "stoner" and I am shocked she event thought he was capable of writing it...I found out later that his very best friend since high school was a doctor, so that explained that one.

    Bottom line: It isn't over. Go through the grievance process as described in your manual over grades. DO NOT mention discrimination as it may not work in your favor. Be as polite as you can throughout the process. You sound diligent and I find it very, very hard to believe that you wouldn't write as least a passing assignment.

    The higher ups have the ability to get an independent evaluation of your work to determine if you were shafted. I would do that before I let them kick me out.
    LeeLeeTheGPN likes this.
  7. 0
    Yes, follow the grievance procedure in your student handbook. For a lawyer, contact your state bar association. Sometimes even a letter from an attorney stating you have retained them can be effective.

    If your talking about just wanting to graduate period, the academic adviser is the person to see. Maybe your school offers and option to design an individualized major and your nursing credits can be applied. You can call it Health Care Studies or something like that.

    There are also transfer friendly schools that will work with you. Excelsior college come off the top of my head but there are many others.

    Do you still want to be a nurse or you want do something else?
  8. 7
    Quote from NY_teach
    Yes, follow the grievance procedure in your student handbook. For a lawyer, contact your state bar association. Sometimes even a letter from an attorney stating you have retained them can be effective.

    If your talking about just wanting to graduate period, the academic adviser is the person to see. Maybe your school offers and option to design an individualized major and your nursing credits can be applied. You can call it Health Care Studies or something like that.

    There are also transfer friendly schools that will work with you. Excelsior college come off the top of my head but there are many others.

    Do you still want to be a nurse or you want do something else?
    If he is in nursing then he should be allowed to graduate with a degree in nursing. There are instructors out there that take delight in the power they have to give grades that the student may be undeserving of...which any direction they happen to be in. My ADN program was full of them and I had ONE in my RN-BSN program...I wasn't even the victim but there were a couple of students that she would just shoot down no matter what they did or said. I had one of them to ask me to review a paper she had wrote....I am a very good writer but hers was far better than mine. Excited over my opinion, she got a 68 on her assignment and I got 100...when she questioned her grade the instructor told her she didn't "grasp the concept" of the assignment...how vague can you possibly be? She wrote point for point, no different than what I did and did a better job.

    We all see these stories posted from time to time on AN and when you read through, you can clearly see that the OP was wanting to be "given" something for nothing, didn't put the time in, had lame excuses for skipping class, etc. In other words, you can see where the bad grade would come from.

    This is one of the few posts where the OP is taking responsibility for everything, even an illness he couldn't control. He is following every channel, every rule, every directive.

    Let's face it...we have all seen some real idiots get through nursing school...While I couldn't tell you if the OP is an A student, I would find it very, very difficult to believe that he couldn't write an assignment that would be of passing standard.

    I would fight this one to my last breath if I were you.
    besaangel, GrnTea, SopranoKris, and 4 others like this.
  9. 0
    Is there another school you could transfer to?
    Last edit by bear14 on Jul 14, '13 : Reason: Spelling
  10. 0
    Yes Jory, he should be allowed to remediate. But it may not happen. Good students get dismissed because a professor has it in for them. You've seen it occur. I've seen it occur. We've all seen it occur. You got to play it smart by having a strategy and backup plan.
  11. 0
    I love it when people say "that don't sound like discrimination to me" when they are the ones who are not in the situation. It's obvious something is going on here. Even in my University and all female professors are a bit odd with the male students. Especially when come times to clinical and the men are not "chatting away" with the patients and that is often viewed as not interacting, even incompetent. When I was sick for 1 day I was called in and told that they think nursing was just not for me.

    They fail to accept men are different and we got a different approach to nursing. The change men are trying to make is not easy and the older generation especially loves pushing back at change.

    Buddy if I were you I would stop beating my head against the wall and transfer your credits to another nursing school. If you can make it to 4th year with A's and B's then all of a sudden failing, yes you may have had a role. However, its as much as the schools failure to provide instructions to improve.

    Don't make one school ruin your dreams and waste 4 years of your life with an unfinished degree. Sure go through the process with the University but Fighting this with a lawyer will be an up hill battle and in the end you still wont have your degree or RN license. Until there are greater number of men in nursing it is what it is. If you met enough requirements you could try another college that will accept the credits. Go to American Assembly for Men in Nursing website. They have a list of schools that are "male friendly".
  12. 0
    This thread makes me sad that this kind of thing is happening. It's almost like how women were discriminated against if they wanted to be a physician.

    OP if nursing is your dream don't let anybody stop you. Sometimes you just got pick the battles you want to fight and how you should fight them. If you think bringing this to court is the route you want to take then all the power to you. However if it was me I would transfer schools and when I graduate go back to that school that failed you with my cap gown and degree certificate and say "look at me now" lol but that's just me.

    I wish you the best of luck in any route you decided to take and believe that you can become the nurse you want to be.

    Keep your head up and keep it moving!
  13. 0
    Could they have found out that you were seeking counseling? This should NOT have mattered..I'm just curious about this since you (the OP) mention this in your post. Were you seeking counseling through a university resource, such as a university run clinic? I ask because though your visits should have been confidential, the chances of someone in the RN program finding out about your counseling sessions obviously would be higher if you were using a university, on-campus resource versus an off-campus one.

    Also, did you always get along with the other students or instructors? Were there any conflicts the instructors found out about or witnessed? Even little ones (misunderstandings)? The ability to get along in any profession is paramount, but in nursing, it is especially important. I'm just thinking out loud here a bit, and trying to explore other reasons besides the gender issue some instructors might have wanted to get rid of you so late in the game, especially in light of the fact that you were doing very well academically in your course work.

    I'm not saying being a male isn't the reason or factor for you having failed, but there could have been another reason or reasons for the dismissal that have nothing to do with your gender. I'm not in any way stating or suggesting you are lying, it's just that we can only formulate ideas on what is going on here based on what you have given us in your post, and there could be other factors which might explain what happened that even you have not considered. When something terrible like this happens, it's easy to come to a quick conclusion, and then cling to the explanation that fits this conclusion. Doing this risks clouding what's really going on. I've certainly been guilty of this in my life. I'm NOT stating you are necessarily wrong in your conclusion. I am suggesting you remain open to other explanations.

    As for advice, I would contact a law firm that has experience dealing with the university Such a firm would be more familiar with the best course of action to take fighting your case, and would be better able to let you know what your chances of success are. Especially helpful would be contacting a law firm that has defended other students in similar situations. I'm not sure how large your university is, but students dropped from law and medical programs are particularly likely to seek legal recourse, since these students are most invested in finishing their degree. Either way, finding the right law firm is really important in your case. A law firm unfamiliar with your university and its inner-workings and appeal processes, etc. would, imo, be at a not insignificant disadvantage.
    Last edit by norlns24 on Jul 14, '13 : Reason: grammar


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