September 27, 2012
SKC investigation reveals grade fixing
By Lailani Upham
PABLO — During a routine review in the spring quarter, Salish Kootenai College officials discovered that 13 underperforming students in the pre-nursing program were given a higher grade to enter the nursing program, according to SKC President Luana Ross.
Several students involved in the grade change are no longer in school or have transferred to other colleges, said SKC officials.
Out of the 13 students, only one student advanced into the SKC nursing program.
Currently there are 80 students in the Nursing program. According to Interim Director of Nursing, Rebekkah Hulen, the completion of bachelor’s degrees in the program has tripled in the past few years.
Ross stated the unethical practice came to light during the review; however, she got wind of the “rumbling” prior to the review, that something not right. “When you hear the rumbling of staff and students, you have to pay attention,” Ross stated in a press conference last week on campus. “You have to be on top of it to catch it,” she added.
“We hold our Nursing Department to high esteem and have to maintain its integrity,” stated Jim Durglo, SKC Board Chairman who was also present at the press conference.
“After receiving complaints and investigating the situation, SKC is taking steps to ensure the academic integrity of the college,” Ross stated. “Guided by the Board of Directors, administrators are implementing a academic integrity policy that will no longer allow college employees, regardless of good intentions, to falsify student success and give unfair advantages,” added Ross.
The investigation lasted several months to uncover the unethical practice. SKC officials have taken major steps to remedy the situation and assure a cheat on grades will not happen again.
Dr. Lynda Brown, of the School of Business Administration at the University of Montana was hired to conduct the investigation, stated Ross.
Brown is noted as an independently consultant who trains on a variety of human resource issues, serves as an expert witness in employment law cases, provides executive/management coaching, and conducts workplace investigations.
Ross stated she couldn’t discuss who was involved in the grade changes at the institute due to ongoing litigation.
The class affected by the grade change was a one-credit anatomy and physiology lab called BIOS 216 course that was offered in the Fall 2011.
After the investigation, students were informed of the action by a letter from Vice President of Academic Affairs Elaine Frank and orally by Hulen.
According to SKC officials, grades were changed back to the grade originally issued by the instructor of record. Students were informed if they were unhappy with the resulting grade change they could choose to repeat the course; challenge the course by examination; or accept the original grade issued.
Ross says there have been some changes in the curriculum to strengthen the Nursing program.
One modification is that the pre-nursing program is now under the Liberal Arts program with an emphasis in pre-nursing.
The SKC leaders agreed it was very important that the community is aware of the situation. “It is important the public receives the information. We are a tight knit community and they have a right to know what happened. It wasn’t right and we took corrective action,” Ross stated.
Ross and the administration agree that the breach of institutional integrity is being remedied and a renewed commitment to the academic strength of the tribal college is at hand. “SKC has always had a stellar reputation and will recover quickly,” she stated. “We are putting this situation behind us and looking forward to a very bright future that uplifts the student body and the entire community.”
The faculty and staff who were involved in the grade change are no longer employed by SKC.
“At SKC, institutional integrity is paramount, and this most unfortunate situation will not happen again,” Ross stated. “The changing of grades was a terrible disservice not only to the students, but to SKC because it is important for people to know that our way is earn success.