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College to Check Nurses' Program for Possible Bias

May 15, 1986|BARBARA BAIRD | Times Staff Writer

In response to an "informal warning" contained in a confidential report by state accreditation officials, Santa Monica College will investigate possible racial and religious discrimination in its registered nursing program.

College President Richard Moore said he will appoint an interim director to take over the duties of the nursing director and department chairwoman during the investigation so that the findings will be "above reproach."

The state Board of Nursing has ordered the college not to make the accreditation report public, Moore said in an interview Tuesday.

The report will remain confidential until presented to the board's educational committee at a meeting June 27 in San Francisco, said Alice Takahashi, nursing education consultant in the agency's Los Angeles office. "It is a preliminary report, a working copy," she said, refusing a Times request for a copy of the study.

No Specific Allegations

Moore said the report, based partly on an accreditation team's three-day visit to the college in April, contains no specific allegations of discrimination.

Rather, he said, it directs the college to take steps to ensure that the registered nursing program is free of racial or religious bias.

The problem apparently does not lie in the nursing program's minority enrollment, which is proportionally similar to that of the college as a whole, officials said. Statistics for the 1984-85 school year show that college-wide enrollment was 34% minority (6,440 out of 18,876), while the nursing program was 29% minority (47 out of 164), they reported.

The investigation will focus on possible discrimination in student evaluations, Moore said.

"We have been given an informal warning in the report and although it does not make any specific charges against the (college) district, it does say, 'You go check it out,' " Moore said. "That's enough for me. We'll check it thoroughly."

Moore said that he has appointed Assistant Supt. James B. Fugle to select an interim director and a panel that will conduct the investigation.

He said all students and faculty in the registered nursing program will be interviewed individually during the inquiry.

The appointment of an interim director is not a punitive action against program director Loanne Haegele and department chairwoman Sharon Reed, Moore said, but is designed to ensure the objectivity of the study.

Haegele and Reed will continue to receive their salaries during the investigation, which will take about two weeks, he said.

"This college prides itself on the high caliber and academic excellence of its programs, including this department," Moore said in a prepared statement. "We will take whatever steps are necessary to sustain the quality of this popular and needed program. It is unacceptable that any form of discrimination might adversely affect the quality of RN nursing instruction."

The state report applies only to the college's registered nursing program, officials said. The school's licensed vocational nursing and respiratory therapy programs are accredited by different agencies, they said.

Takahashi said the state Board of Nursing routinely investigates the 90 nursing schools in the state as part of the accreditation examination required every five years.

The two-person teams visit each school for three days, interviewing faculty, students and administrators to assure that the schools' policies, courses of study and practices conform to requirements set out in the state Nursing Practices Act, she said.

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