Filed grievance causes stir in Nursing Deparment

By Juan Calvillo

When Lynn Hang failed out of the nursing program at East Los Angeles College, she went through the college’s grievance process and said the Nursing Department shared information from documents in the grievance with fellow students. 

Hang submitted a grievance in August of 2022 after several attempts at trying to change a grade in her nursing course. The course was Nursing 265.

The Los Angeles Community College District’s grievance administrative procedure explains that, “The purpose of this Administrative Procedure [grievance] is to provide a prompt and equitable means for resolving student(s) grievances. In the pursuit of academic goals, the student should be free of unfair or improper action by any member of the academic community.”

Paulina Palomino is the ombudsperson at ELAC. Her role is to help students resolve their filed complaints.

“Grievance-related documents are not public. The student(s) have privacy rights in all materials submitted,” Palomino said in an email.

In June of 2022 Hang sent a letter to the entire Nursing Department in which she described course issues such as lack of clarity in course material usage and the professor lacking knowledge of course material. 

She said after sending this letter, she tried to connect with Brenda Chan, Nursing Department director, to figure out a time to speak about the issues her letter brought up. This conversation ended with a meeting time, but then through a series of issues Hang couldn’t make it. There was an attempt at rescheduling, but it went nowhere. Hang resent her letter to multiple people in administration and Djuradj Babic, the dean of nursing at the time, made time to speak with her.

“I knew I had to bring awareness after being ignored by her [Chan],” Hang said.

Babic talked with Hang and Chan, and told Hang she could file a grievance after there was no forward movement in the issues in the department. This letter was one document she included in her grievance as a piece of evidence showing what was going on in the department.

Hang also included in her grievance evidence a letter her nursing cohort signed and delivered to Chan, during a staff and faculty meeting. This letter was focused on the elimination of Sherpath, one of the online tools that nursing students used in course work. The purpose of this letter was to ask the department to choose a teaching tool that students would be tested on.

Hang said she was told by nursing students that Chan and Jade Valmonte, Nursing Department assistant director, had asked students in her cohort about who was giving Hang information. This was after Hang was no longer in the nursing program at ELAC. 

Hang said students told her they were shown the letter calling for the elimination of Sherpath and asked who was giving information about the department. Hang said students told her they were told that the purpose of Hang’s grievance was to shut down the Nursing Department.

A source in the Nursing Department said they heard about Chan and Valmonte talking with Hang’s cohort about a letter. They said Chan and Valmonte were asking the cohort who was passing information to Hang. The source said the situation got heated.

Hang said these actions were done as both a scare tactic and a form of intimidation against students in her cohort. She said students told her Valmonte said they knew who had written the elimination of Sherpath letter and that she would face repercussions.

Martha Garcia, retired Nursing Department associate professor, said multiple students came to her with complaints while she was assistant director for the Nursing Department from 2019 to 2022. She said these complaints were focused on instructors in the program and that students came to her out of fear of these professors. 

She told them the best course of action was to follow the chain of command when it came to complaints.

“There are just too many. There shouldn’t be so many complaints,” Garcia said.

The source in the Nursing Department said students told her Valmonte had said the person who was thought to have written the letter was going to get hers. The source said the person referenced was Hang. This could be interpreted as the possibility of retaliation against Hang. Hang said at that point members of her cohort had seen documentation that was part of her grievance.

Palomino said in an email the following specific people are supposed to be involved in a grievance at the preliminary stages, “…the Student filing the grievance, the faculty member, if not resolved during the “informal resolution” stage, the grievance committee.”

Hang said after hearing from people in the nursing program about Valmonte’s possible threat, she filed a police report. The source in the Nursing Department said they had heard that Valmonte also threatened anyone who had helped Hang. 

The source said they never helped Hang, but there was a sense in the department that they might have helped. The source said they also filed a police report against Valmonte. They said these two police reports were not the only ones filed against Valmonte due to her volatile nature.

Hang said she never got to see any committee review her filed grievance. She was later informed that the committee didn’t side with her in the process and her grade was not changed. After this response, Hang met with Steven Reynolds, Nursing Department dean, to speak about her situation.

Reynolds said he had a conversation with Hang and didn’t remember the details, but he did have a conversation with Hang and with department chair Chan. Hang said she shared information she had heard from people in the Nursing Department with Reynolds. She said she told Reynolds that she had been informed that documents from the grievance had been shown to students in her cohort. He said this was news to him.

“If she did, I don’t recall. I didn’t write any of that down,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said when there is a conflict between students and instructors the first step toward reconciliation is to have a conversation. The point is for both sides to listen to each other and come to some type of understanding.

“In most cases, the conversation is enough to resolve the issue.  If not, then the student can discuss the situation with the department chair or dean,” Reynolds said.

The department source said Reynolds knew of the situation in the nursing program.

Reynolds said when students have opportunities to provide feedback to instructors they should take it. He said it is important to know what occurred in the process and what can be improved. He said feedback is important to the chair or director of the department. When it comes to nursing, the lecture part of courses is designed to prepare students. This information is what is brought to the hospital setting. He said errors could bring about horrific situations in the clinical area.

Reynolds said when it comes to nursing, the first semester truly is a make-or-break situation as designed by the LACCD. He said passing rates for the first course in nursing have improved. He said the current passing rate for the first course are as follows:

2019 – 2020: 88.4%

2020 – 2021: 95.5%

2021 – 2022: 89.3%

2022 – 2023: 85.7%

Hang said Reynolds would contact her and tell her there was nothing he could do about her situation. She said she told him that she would continue to work to get the situation in the Nursing Department fixed.

Vincent Miranda, the Board of Registered Nurses information officer specialist said in an email, “The East Los Angeles College nursing program is an approved program and is currently in compliance with all Board rules and regulations.”

He said the BRN expects student success from all approved nursing programs.

Campus News contacted Chan for this article. Chan said she was busy.

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