4 reasons cited
Kelsey Heatley / Managing Editor
A 13-year nursing professor at Del Mar College has been dismissed.
Assistant Professor Janell Bennett was terminated on Oct. 11 following a lengthy hearing. The decision was made after a 7-2 vote as well as a recommendation of removal from the panel that consisted of nine tenured faculty members.
According to transcripts from the hearing, the decision to dismiss Bennett was based on four reasons.
Dr. Fernando Figueroa, provost and vice president of student instruction and student services, explained the reasons in direct examination.
The first was Bennett’s alleged threatening and retaliatory acts toward students. Bennett filed a defamation suit against three students after they filed complaints against her.
“Certainly, the fact that this was activity protected by law, was disturbing that there would be action taken against anyone, but especially students for engaging in protective activity was disconcerting,” Figueroa said.
The second factor was the assignment of a failing summative evaluation against students.
Figueroa stated that students need to know and want to know that they are being evaluated according to criteria that’s objective.
“If there’s any smell of arbitrations or personal element to it, it kills the trust in the evaluation process, and therefore, the learning,” Figueroa said.
According to Figueroa’s testimony, Bennett failed to maintain professional relationships and engaged in ineffective communication with her colleagues.
“The nursing department, as a collective, has to think and talk as a team, they have to work on the standards evenly and equally as team,” Figueroa said during the hearing.
The last factor in the dismissal was Bennett’s clinical supervision and instructional effectiveness.
Bennett said it was a difficult to accept the panel’s decision.
“I want to thank them for their participation during this arduous process and I respect their decision,” Bennett said. “I especially want to thank the two unbiased panel members who were brave enough to stand up for justice and fairness.”
Del Mar President Dr. Mark Escamilla had no comment, saying the proceedings dealt with a confidential personnel matter.
“Just as Del Mar College respects the privacy of students based on College policy and other regulations governing how individual student information is used and disclosed, we also treat confidential personnel issues with the same consideration,” he wrote in a statement.
Dr. Gerald Sansing, a biology professor, sat through the series of hearings.
According to Sansing, Bennett, a tenured professor, was alerted to problems in January.
“It started with three students who complained about Janell because they failed their clinicals,” Sansing said.
The students claimed Bennett was overbearing, too tough and closed-minded.
According to Sansing, the students complained to faculty members and filed grade complaints.
Bennett defended her high standards.
“I am guilty of having high standards and according to the research, the success of the student is based on high standards and a key component of improving student achievement is raising standards,” she said.
“There were so many testimonies but none of them were from the three who originally complained,” Sansing said. “She never got to face her accusers.”
The Board of Regents will review the president’s decision on the dismissal and have the option of reinstating Bennett.
Even though Bennett was still awaiting an official decision as of press time, there is one thing that she wishes never happens again from the college.
“I hope that no other professors find themselves treated as I have been treated by Del Mar College,” she said.