The nine Salt Lake Community College nursing instructors who gathered in the American Federation of Teachers union hall in Midvale in December were not there for the free coffee.
For nearly all of those at the table, the preceding four months had led them to either retire early or quit. This exodus now numbers 13 faculty and staff members, many of them tenured, accounting for a large portion of the full-time nursing-school staff at what is one of the largest nursing schools in the state.
Around and around the complaints flew. Nurses with two decades of teaching chopsalong with those just starting down the pathrattled off an array of circumstances and problems that led them to walk away from their jobs. And at the epicenter of their complaints is the nursing school's interim associate dean, Francine Weiss.
"When you have more than three-quarters of your full-time seasoned faculty members, many of whom have been there for over 15 years, saying 'This is intolerable,' there is something terribly, terribly wrong, and we cannot keep going like this," says Jane Jensen, a nine-year veteran nursing instructor who, along with longtime faculty members Georgia Anderson and Jennie Barnes, retired early at the conclusion of the fall 2014 semester. "The program is suffering, the students are suffering and the faculty is suffering. Nobody has taken us seriously."
Problems with the inner gears of the nursing program have included an outdated curriculum and a dip to 74 percent proficiency in 2013 (85 percent is the school's goal) on the national licensing exam, which all nurses must pass. These problems and others were cited by administrators prior to Weiss' hiring in fall 2014.
And, although she confirmed that 13 faculty and staff members have left the school either during, or shortly before her tenure began, Weiss says this flight isn't unusual.
"I've seen that before," Weiss says of the faculty departures. "Staff comes and goes. We have turnover in staff."
Kim Dumas, who resigned because of the working conditions under Weiss, says that in her 10 years at the school, only two faculty members left.
Weiss says the problems facing the program were caused by the faculty, not the administration.
But Dumas says Weiss changed the times and dates of classes, shuffled membership on various staff committees, and arbitrarily disciplined faculty members, all factors that led Dumas and others to quit their jobs.
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