Former nursing student sues the University of Michigan alleging wrongful dismissal
A former University of Michigan nursing student is suing the university over claims that her due process rights were violated when she was expelled and barred from campus in 2007.
In her federal lawsuit, Linda Martinson claims she was dismissed from the program after being accused of honor code violations, despite recommendations that she be allowed to stay or be suspended instead.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of similar legal action involving a former U-M School of Dentistry student who was awarded $2 million in a lawsuit that claimed she was illegally thrown out of school in 2005.
U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said U-M attorneys are prepared to vigorously defend the individuals named in the Martinson suit, who include an associate dean and two directors from the school of nursing, as well as the U-M Board of Regents.
"The University of Michigan takes seriously the responsibility of preparing the very best professionals in the nursing program and in all of our academic programs," Fitzgerald said. "The university and each school and college have in place a robust process to review actions regarding a student’s status and that process affords the student an opportunity to be heard."
Due to student privacy concerns, he added, the university will not comment on the specifics of the case.
Martinson was student in an accelerated second career nursing program from August to November 2007.
According to the lawsuit, Martinson was accused in September 2007 of honor code violations in a 200-level nursing class. A meeting was held in October with a nursing school associate dean and a director to discuss the problems and deliver a letter to Martinson specifying the violations.
Carol Loveland-Cherry, associate dean for academic affairs, called police during the meeting to issue a no-trespass violation to Martinson, the suit says. Loveland-Cherry submitted a request the next day to E. Royster Harper, the vice president for student affairs, saying Martinson disrupted the environment and "caused faculty, students and staff to feel threatened and fear for their personal safety," according to the suit. It called for Martinson's immediate removal due to mental health reasons, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges Loveland-Cherry and two nursing school directors pursued the expulsion due to a strong personal dislike of Martinson, despite recommendations from the office of student conflict resolution, Harper and a school of nursing appellate panel that Martinson be allowed to stay in school with counseling or be suspended rather than expelled.
Named as defendants in the suit are the U-M Board of Regents, as well as Loveland-Cherry; Judith Lynch-Sauer, an assistant professor and director of the office of student affairs; and Bonnie Hagerty, an associate professor and director for undergraduate programs.
Calls to Martinson's lawyers were not immediately returned Tuesday.
In the earlier similar lawsuit, former dental student Alissa Zwick said her expulsion occurred because of a feud between two faculty members and an associate dean. A jury ruled last December that Zwick's due-process rights were violated and ordered the university to pay her $1.72 million, in addition to attorney fees totaling $320,990.
U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said U-M attorneys filed an appeal in March, which is still pending.
Juliana Keeping covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2528.