The name of the school was so familiar, I thought I had already written on this issue. But no: the past Ethics Alarms pieces were related—dimly–to the fate of student Kaylyn Willis, but this ethics outrage in involving her is new. In 2015 there was a mass shooting at the school, prompting the usual eruption of finger-pointing and dishonest claims by the anti-gun hysterics. I wrote about the latter here and elsewhere. Obviously, the tragedy is a raw wound, but that’s no excuse for what the school has done to Willis.
In the winter 2021 term, Willis enrolled in “Chronic I,” a class taught by Patrick Harris. Harris assigned students to use “critical imagining” to create stories from the perspective of a person suffering from a chronic disease. For a May, 2021 assignment, Harris asked his students to reflect on the support systems of chronically ill individuals and how a person with a chronic illness might respond to the sudden and unexpected loss of such support. Willis imagined a scenario in which a woman suffering from ALS shoots her husband, who is also her primary caretaker. Her fiction was based on a real case where a jury found a man “not guilty” of murdering his wife and sister-in-law because he suffered from ALS-related mental health issues. She posted her assignment on-line, as she had been directed to do.
Harris, it is fair to say, flipped out. He gave Willis an F, saying, “Do you honestly think that your post on a nursing school assignment was appropriate? Joking about killing your husband? I’m really questioning your critical thinking if you think this was an appropriate discussion post.” Harris indicated that he viewed her story as particularly offensive after the 2015 shooting on UCC’s campus.
School officials informed Willis that she was expelled from the program because her post violated its handbook prohibiting “[a]cts which are dishonest, disrespectful, or disruptive.” The Grievance Panel’s written decision stated that Willis’ post was “insensitive” and “failed to take into consideration the events of UCC’s past and the impact her post could have.” Her appeal was denied and she is now unable to seek admission to any other Oregon Consortium Nursing Education programs.