A randy Excelsior College instructor flunked a Florida nursing student during her final exam, ripping the test from her hand, because she refused to go out with him, she claimed in a federal civil rights complaint.
Jessica Willis, 37, of Broward County, Fla., filed her official gripe with the Department of Education after her dream of becoming a nurse was thrown into chaos by a handsy male nurse.
Willis, single mother of two children, said she spent about $32,000 and three years studying nursing at Excelsior, a Albany-based online college.
She completed all her online courses and, after an eight-month delay, the college scheduled final practical exam. Willis, who said she served as an Army hospital corpsman from 2004 to 2007, flew to Queens in mid-April to undergo a series of tests in which she had to read charts, check on patients and perform various basic nursing tasks.
Willis says she was expecting a professional atmosphere at Queens Presbyterian Hospital — but what she got seemed more like a Saturday night at a singles bar.
A male nurse, whose name she never got, showed up late to the test, the first symptom that this exam would not go well.
The instructor called her ‘honey’ and started making small talk that quickly turned personal.
“He also asked me if I came alone and what I am going to do this evening now that I am far from home,” she said. “I felt very uncomfortable with the types of questions that he was asking me.”
At one point, he sat her down and began debriefing her on a patient without telling her what her assignment was.
“This is when he leaned over and touched my arm,” she said. “I quickly told him to stop and that I am here for my exam.”
Throughout the rest of her exam, patients who she was supposed to administer to and equipment that she needed were not available or missing. Long delays in finding replacements cost her precious minutes in the 2 1/2-hour test, she says.
She was finishing up a musculoskeletal review of a patient when the instructor decided time was up.
“He pulled my paper away from me and wouldn’t give it back to me,” she said. “I would have finished if he hadn’t taken up all my time with his advances and asking me to go out with him. I was there to take a test.”
“He was very mean and rude and failed me for not taking him up on his advances. He lied and stole my chances of being a RN away,” she wrote in her complaint to the DOE.
Willis, who is the lead plaintiff in a class action fraud suit against the school for exaggerating pass rates, failed the final, but appealed to Excelsior based on what she says was the instructor’s disorganized and inappropriate behavior.
In a June letter, she appealed her grade and asked to retake the test. Excelsior offered to let her retake the test without paying because the atmosphere had not been “neutral.” But she refused to return.
“It’s too emotionally hard for me,” she said. “I didn’t want to subject myself to any more distress.”
“The College takes allegations of harassment seriously and enforces its anti-harassment policies. Due to state and federal privacy laws, we are unable to publicly discuss information contained in individual student records,” spokesman Michael Lesczinski said.
The federal DOE would not comment on Willis’s complaint, but said there have been 10 civil rights complaints against the cyber school since Oct. 2015.