Explosive Problem for the University of Louisville – Nursing Student Expelled for MySpace Blog

On Thursday, March 5th we learned that a nursing student at the University of Louisville was expelled because of a post on her MySpace account.

And it’s official. A law suit was filed today alleging the University has violated rights to free speech.

The student, Nina Yoder, filed suit against the University of Louisville, serving the following people: Angela Koshewa, UofL General Counsel; Jack Conway, Kentucky Attorney General; Dr. Ermalynn Kiehl, Associate Dean at UofL; and Dr. Marcia Hern, professor at UofL.

The suit alleges Yoder was expelled after posting her personal opinions on MySpace. They didn’t create a disturbance, didn’t breach confidentiality of any kind and didn’t advocate or endorse any illegal activity whatsoever. But she was kicked out of school, with no warning and no notice of charges against her, and wasn’t allowed to defend herself or present her side of the story during an appeal– which was denied with no reason specified. Long story short, Yoder’s right to free speech under both the Constitution and Kentucky law (sections one and two of the state constitution) was allegedly violated, she was retaliated against by University faculty.

We could go on for days, so let’s take a look at the factual allegations (edited for brevity/clarity, see the full suit by CLICKING HERE):

  • February 26 – Yoder received a call from Glenda Adams, professor at the Nursing School, who stated that she needed to meet with Plaintiff in person the following morning.
  • February 27 – Yoder arrived at the Nursing School and was greeted by Dr. Ermalynn Kiehl, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs, who escorted her into an office with two persons believed to be police or campus security officers.
  • Dr. Kiehl informed Yoder that she (Kiehl) had “pictures” and that “students voiced concerns that lead us [the University] to believe you may have a gun.”

Read the rest and see the evidence after the jump…

  • Yoder did not have a gun in her possession at that time, and has never brought any firearm onto University campus.
  • Yoder was subjected to a pat-down search by the two security officers, and was found not to have any firearms or anything illegal on her person.
  • After Yoder was searched, Dr. Kiehl presented her with a printouts of posts allegedly made by Yoder to on her personal MySpace profile page. Here are those postings:

    CLICK FOR EXHIBIT 1

  • The posts were the personal beliefs of Yoder, did not create a disturbance, did not breach confidentiality of any kind, and did not advocate or endorse any illegal activity.
  • Dr. Kiehl informed Yoder that she could not allow her to become a nurse due to the nature of her posts.
  • Dr. Kiehl further informed Yoder that she had been withdrawn from all of her classes, and that she was considered “persona non-grata,” and not allowed to enter the University’s campus.
  • On or about March 2, 2009, Yoder received a letter from Marcia J. Hern, Dean and Professor at the Nursing School, which confirmed her “academic dismissal” due solely to her “internet postings.” Here’s that letter:


    CLICK FOR EXHIBIT 2

  • Per the Nursing School’s procedures, Yoder submitted a petition for review of her dismissal to the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Committee. See that here:


    CLICK FOR EXHIBIT 3

  • Yoder’s petition (above) specifically complained of violations of her constitutional rights by the Defendants.
  • Yoder was not allowed to attend the meeting of the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Committee in which her petition was decided, nor was she allowed to contact anyone from the University to inquire as to the status of the petition.
  • On or about March 11, 2009, Yoder received a letter from Dr. Kiehl informing her that her petition was denied. No further reasons for her dismissal was given in the letter, which is here:


    CLICK FOR EXHIBIT 4

Can you believe this? Expelled by a public university for expressing her opinions on a private website. Then she wasn’t allowed to defend herself or address allegations made against her. She appealed the expulsion, which was denied, with no reasoning given. And the University of Louisville thinks this is a-okay.

First the myriad Robert Felner scandals and now this? We don’t remotely agree with anything Yoder had to say on her blog, but what on earth? I have a feeling the national higher education community is going to lose its cool over this mess.

What do YOU think, dear reader?

118 thoughts on “Explosive Problem for the University of Louisville – Nursing Student Expelled for MySpace Blog

  1. She gave DETAILS about patients in her care. She took a CAMERA with her and recorded a birth. HIPAA 101.

    She says she wasn’t granted the opportunity to address her dismissal, but we don’t know that to be true. There is no date on the appeal form she supposedly sent to the school.

    Why is that bullshit? Why do you WANT to believe she was dismissed because of her views? This is KY, not San Francisco, for Pete’s sake.

    So you’re going to shut down the comments, because someone doesn’t agree with you? What ever happened to free speech???

    And who is in the Carolinas?

  2. She gave details that didn’t identify any one individual. That’s not a HIPAA violation.

    Again, HIPAA was NOT mentioned in her dismissal.

    She wasn’t granted the opportunity to address her dismissal – UofL has admitted as much. And Yoder’s attorney has proved as much.

    Have you read ANYTHING about UofL over the past year? Anything at all? People get dismissed for far less. You should bother reading the 200 or so stories I’ve written about Robert Felner. Educate yourself about what goes on at UofL.

    Have you read any of the news stories about Yoder? Her classmates had concerns about her views/didn’t like her views and complained about her on a number of occasions. And they made up some story about being afraid that she had a gun on her– based on a conversation she had about the 2nd Amendment.

    I’m not going to shut comments down because someone disagrees with me – but because people continue to spew spin.

    This isn’t a public forum, it’s a website that my company wholly owns.

    Two commenters are in the Carolinas. And they’re two commenters who often defend Robert Felner and spew random crap in defense of crooked business re: UofL.

  3. This may rattle a cage or two but if Nina wasn’t in pursuit of a job when she got people’s attention and no identities were actually revealed, what difference does it make? Panacea: I wouldn’t equate putting down
    thoughts on Facebook with speaking them in a class or clinical setting any more than I would expect to be busted for an offhand, un-PC remark at a party. Without the big brouhaha, nobody would even have thought to look at her MySpace page.

    And how productive, really, is the very hard line? Nina Yoder invested time, work, money. Don’t forget, this is someone’s life and future; the student’s and her dependent’s. She is a veteran, a former US Army medic and, immature as she may be in other ways, she brings that to the table. If you look at how the University of Louisville handled it, you might see how this course of action does everyone a disservice, not only to the student. Giving serious thought as to the frank, “straightforwardness” of many nurses, attested to by some postings here, I wonder how anyone can justify dispensing with someone based on assumptions: that the person carries a firearm, that blog readers will connect the details that in turn violate a patient’s privacy, assumptions made about the depth of someone’s character taken entirely from their “writings”.

    To throw away someone’s education and career because they used a “ubiquitous” cell phone camera to document the “weirdness” of birth…with no previous missteps…and no subsequent counseling is a huge waste. I’d caution against prejudging; you run the risk of missing exactly what you’re looking for. Try basing it on evidence…

    Anyone read the novels of Louis-Ferdinand Celine lately? He’s isn’t so PC, but the writing is funny. Sometimes writing really is just that:
    black humor, subversive, exaggeration. Who really thinks Nina’s come this far as a nursing student and Army medic so she can “act on” those writings?

    Please!

    (to defenders of Uof L in matters of concealing the truth…you wear everyone out & give yourself away!)

  4. Well, I actually agree with Jake on Felner 100%.

    But on this issue, I respectfully disagree.

    And if the HIPAA violations aren’t an issue (which I still think they are, as someone who has been well-educated on the subject over the last 10 years), then let’s look at an excerpt from the Code of Conduct, found on U of L’s website.

    It states:
    http://louisville.edu/dos/policies-and-procedures/code-of-student-conduct.html#1

    8. Prohibited Conduct

    “The following non-academic misconduct is subject to disciplinary action:

    t. Engaging in intentional conduct directed at a specific person(s) which seriously alarms or intimidates such person(s) and which serves no legitimate purpose. Such conduct may include, but is not limited to: explicit or implicit threats, including gestures which place a person in reasonable fear of unwelcome physical contact, harm or death; following a person about in a public place or to or from his or her residence; making remarks in a public place to a specific person(s) which are by common usage lewd, obscene, expose a person(s) to public hatred or that can reasonably be expected to have a tendency to cause acts of violence by the person(s) to whom the remark is addressed; communicating through electronic mail or other electronic means, or anonymously by voice or graphic means or making a telephone call whether or not a conversation ensues.”

    “9.4. Disciplinary Measures
    The University is equally committed to creating an environment that is free from intolerance. Therefore, when any violation of this Code is determined to be motivated by intolerance based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin, the sanction(s) imposed will be increased in severity and may include separation from the institution.”

  5. Well JFC Jake, what was she let go for then? I don’t care if its HIPAA, professionalism, or code of conduct. She violated all three. Others were alarmed by her racist point of views. Again I ask: would you be this passionate if this were a cop we were talking about?

    Please shut down the thread. Like you say, your company owns this, and if this is not the type of discourse you desire, them please end it. You have that right. That is exactly what freedom of speech is about. You’re not saying we can’t say these things, you’re just saying we can’t say them here. You know…here on a site that is about politics.

    As far as HIPAA/details go. It doesn’t have to be blatantly obvious. She gives close dates/time frames, patients age, where they were seen in the hospital, under what circumstances, gender, and details of recent travel. Privacy is violated when there is enough information to put together who the patient was. It does not have to be just the name. It wouldn’t take much of a detective or journalist to figure that out. People who know these patients might recognize some of the details and put it together. That is how it works. What are the odds someone is going to read her myspace page? Probably slim to none, but she still published that information. JFC, I have been dealing with patient privacy for almost 17 years, I know what I am talking about. I am not spinning anything. What would my motivation be? I am a nurse in grad school (not in KY) worried about this person working around patients and giving nursing as a profession a black eye.

    But say its not HIPAA. She was not acting professional. She is not some teenage school kid, freshly arrived at college. She is already in the medical business. She has already received training on both HIPAA, code of conduct and professionalism out the ying yang. Now all of sudden she has forgotten all that? Give me a break.

    Again, she is getting her day in court. She might win and get back in. I don’t know about the history of the school as a whole, but I do have some insight into the school of nursing, and its reputation is solid. She even offered to go to counseling. Why would she do that if she didn’t need it? Unless this is more of her “two faced Siamese twin” bit.

    If she is sincere, however, let her get her counseling, and then maybe she can continue. Frankly, the ONLY person I am worried about in all of this is her kid. I hope she can pull it together for his sake.

  6. Ivan: That’s kind of the point. No one knows why she was expelled. Not even UofL knows or they wouldn’t be obfuscating so furiously.

    Again, read before commenting. Regular readers of this site know I’m more likely to support a cop than someone blaming a cop.

    You people need to educate yourself on HIPAA violations. Nina Yoder didn’t provide enough information for any Joe Blow on the street to figure out who a patient is. A HIPAA violation requires that personally identifying health information be provided. Typically, according to nearly every bit of HIPAA case law I’ve ever examined and ever bit of HIPAA training I’ve ever had over the past decade, it takes three pieces of personally identifying information. Not just a name. Not just a date of birth.

    And Yep: I just read UofL’s code of conduct for the zillionth time. I didn’t see any implicit threats from Yoder, didn’t see that she said anything lewd about a specific person, didn’t see anything that could cause an act of violence against someone.

  7. Let me try to understand this in context – A student expresses herself, as is her first amendment right (never mind whether her words were in good taste or not) and she gets expelled by a public institution that did not follow due process (history repeats itself), again violating her constitutional rights. Did she violate the code of conduct? If so, that might merit some sanction but not expulsion in the first offense, IMHO. I am not judging her, and I am not saying she is one, but dumb asses exist in every profession. I assume that nurses are willing to conform to standards or they don’t work. If there is a problem with her, it will take care of itself.

    Now, on a more important matter, what do we do when administrators violate our fundamental rights and top it all off with lie after lie? Shouldn’t that result in their termination? Does that violate any honor code or code of conduct? How about a code of ethics? If so, we need a complete turnover of the U of L administrators from deans on up. Anymore, it makes me puke to hear a U of L dean or the provost or the president open their mouths, or worse send out a public statement, because I know I am not going to believe a single word they spew. Tell you what, if U of L will address the constitutional rights violations first and start respecting them for all faculty/staff/students, then I will be willing to listen to their arguments against Yoder. Until then, the administration has no credibility and just needs to back off her case.

  8. Yeah Jake, we do know why. From Nina herself on video: “due to the nature of my blogs”. What is it that you are not getting about the nature of her blogs? They demean women, the mentally ill, and minorities (you know, people who can sometimes be patients) Her blogs are vile, unprofessional, racist and for the zillionth time they do give away enough information. What HIPAA training did your receive? From the US Department of Human Health and Services:

    Protected Health Information. The Privacy Rule protects all “individually identifiable health information” held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral. The Privacy Rule calls this information “protected health information (PHI).”

    “Individually identifiable health information” is information, including demographic data, that relates to:

    * the individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition,
    * the provision of health care to the individual, or
    * the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual,

    and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify the individual.

    Does that make sense? I could use the information she gave and figure out who she was talking about. Or, more likely, a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor could recognize enough of the facts to identify the patient. It is NOT a stretch.

    I didn’t say you wouldn’t support a cop. I am saying if this information came to light about a police officer or cadet, they would hopefully be removed. I am ex cop. My department would have dropped her like the liability she is. If that information came to light during her training, she would not have been allowed to continue her training. Why? Because (and this was my point) there are certain professions where racist, unprofessional and vile rants like hers can not be tolerated. Unfortunately for her, she picked one of those professions, and she knows it.

    Look, I am not trying to pick a fight. I am veteran and former police officer. I would fight for her right to say anything she wants. I have a son. I want him to be able to say what he wants. That is not at issue. She said what she wanted. In doing so, it brought to light things about her which are NOT compatible with nursing. She is clearly in need of counseling. I think/hope she is salvageable. I am proud to live in a country where she can say things like that and not be dragged off to jail, but I don’t begrudge her instructors from doing the right thing and for the moment anyway, stop her from her current path.

  9. That’s what Nina says – not what UofL says. So, no, we do NOT know why.

    Why don’t you call her attorney, Dan, as I have done? Then try calling UofL, as I have done?

    No one can say, for certain, why she was expelled. No one involved.

    Her blog (singular, she only has one– which contains multiple posts) is, indeed, vile and ridiculous. And, no, her blog doesn’t give away “enough information” for Joe Blow on the street to determine who she’s talking about.

    I’ve received training from Humana, the VA, M.D. Anderson, American Cancer Society, CMS. Beginning in 1999. The most recent at M.D. Anderson in 2008.

  10. I don’t need to call. I have heard Nina, and I have read the letter you posted here. She was dismissed because of her (as you stated) “vile” internet postings. For me that is enough.

    Now here is where I may agree with you. What is not clear to me how much due process she was afforded. If I am following this right, she had a hearing, but it was called off by the university. This is a public institution correct? If it were private then due process is a non issue. I think that was stupid on their part. She deserves her hearing. You guys are more familiar with the university than I so I don’t know how they operate.
    What I will say is this: as a nurse I can state her conduct is unbecoming and as it stands right now I think she is on weak ground. I think she might win on the due process thing, but be careful what you wish for, she might just get her due process, and end up right where she started: defending her racist, unprofessional comments that demeans herself, current nursing students, and working/professional nurses.

    As far as HIPAA, we shall have to agree to disagree. I feel there is enough info there to identify. You don’t see it that way. About as far as I am willing to meet you is that, again, I feel it is highly unlikely that anyone who cares/is related to the patients she discusses are highly unlikely to be reading her posts. For what its worth.

  11. Mostly, I don’t look at it as a HIPAA violation because she didn’t provide enough information for me (with, if I may toot my horn, pretty good research skills) to identify the patient(s).

    Note that I’ve never said what she wrote/said/did was acceptable. I’m not even her attorney has said as much. I just think it’s important to stick to the law and the rules at places like UofL as they’re written. And it appears to me that Yoder got dicked over by UofL merely because she’s got a screw loose.

  12. But- (even if she didn’t provide enough ID’ing info in the blog-which she did)the patients will now be able to identify themselves, after seeing her multitude of pictures and TV interviews. They can recognize her, go read her blog, and put 2&2 together. She has made it even easier for them to identify themselves.
    She is screwed either way, and has done it herself. Only now, she alone can be held culpable for what she has posted, as she is no longer a UofL student.
    If she does get reinstated, she will then have to deal with the Board of Nursing, when she tries to obtain licensure. If she gets past them (which she might not), then she will have to find a job in which she has pretty much screwed herself, as far as marketability and liability go.

    As far as ethics, the School of Nursing’s ethical duty toward the patients far outweigh any duty toward Yoder. She should have understood this.

  13. Ivan: from what I understand in the news, the hearing that was canceled was before a federal judge, not the school administrators. The article says nothing about why the hearing was canceled, or whether it will be rescheduled.

    There is enough information to identify, though it is not directly on her blog. She took PHOTOGRAPHS. People can and are identifiable from their photographs. The issue for U of L was not that a patient had been publicly identified, but that she took identifiable information (photographs) out of the hospital and then made denigrating statements about her patient on the Internet.

    Honor codes are about character. Nursing is about seeing and treating people for who they are, without being judgmental about their circumstances or the nature of their health problems.

    We can have our private opinions, but the nursing code of professionalism limits how we can express them.

    We teach this from day one in every nursing program nationwide.

    Nursing is a calling. It is not a “job,” in the sense that working at the GM factory is a job. Nurses are supposed to commit themselves to the improvement of their communities–this is the way we’ve been doing it since Florence Nightingale modernized nursing in the 1850’s.

    You have to understand, people’s lives and well being are at stake here. If a nurse is not committed to what she is doing, she puts patient safety at risk.

    As an instructor, I have a duty to protect the public from unsafe nurses. I fulfill that duty by holding students to high standards. That doesn’t mean there aren’t incompetent nurses out there.

    As an instructor, my role is to prepare my students to become entry level (beginner) nurses. I want my students to succeed, and work hard to help them be successful. I have no doubt the School of Nursing at U of L does the same thing.

    However, if a student is unable to perform to academic standard, or if her behavior demonstrates an unfitness to be a nurse (by violating college/hospital rules), then I have a duty to the public to not allow that student to progress.

    marie says, “And how productive, really, is the very hard line? Nina Yoder invested time, work, money. Don’t forget, this is someone’s life and future; the student’s and her dependent’s.”

    It’s not my concern how much time, effort, or money the student has put into her schooling if she is unfit to be a nurse. My concern is the safety of the public at large.

    Now I don’t know anything about the U of L other than I’ve found no public statements from them on this issue, and I didn’t expect to find any. They can’t comment on this issue, therefore we don’t know their side of things, only what Yoder has claimed, and the documentation she provided.

    Some here seem to view the U of L’s actions in the worst possible light until proven otherwise. Since I don’t live in KY, I can’t comment on that. I just know I don’t know their side of the story and won’t unless this moves into the courts. So people here are getting very defensive of Yoder but can’t claim to know the whole story.

    I am basing my judgments on what I have seen of her direct actions (the blog), and the letter from her University. Because that’s all I have to go on. And it doesn’t look good for her.

    The whole gun thing–I don’t know what’s going on there. The dismissal letter didn’t mention it, so I can only conclude the University decided it didn’t have enough evidence to prove whatever allegation was made. I doubt the University made the allegation up–it didn’t need to. There was plenty to dismiss her on as it was.

    jake: you’ve made it crystal clear that you are not interested in viewing any opinion other than your own. I posted here because the conversation seemed very one sided, and I hoped to help people understand how seriously nursing takes its responsibilities.

    I don’t know if I’ve managed to get anyone to see the broader picture from a nurse’s perspective, but I hope some of the seed has not fallen on barren ground.

    However, I’ve taken this as far as I can–either people will understand what I’m saying or they won’t. So I doubt I’ll post here again.

    But I would like to make one final statement, one that has nothing to do with Yoder.

    jake, I was saddened to see your threat to close comments on this threat.

    jake stated, “Do I need to shut down comments on this story or are you couple of folks in the Carolinas going to continue spewing bullshit 24/7?”

    I don’t know for sure if jake was referring to me or not: I am in North Carolina (he may have gotten that from my email domain). I have no idea who this Felner fellow is, and I have never posted on this site before this thread. So maybe he was referring to other people.

    But jake, it disappoints me that you would close down a thread simply because people don’t agree with your point of view. A journalist should be open minded and free of bias. Of course no one can be completely bias free, but a journalist should strive for it.

    Do you really think that a site such as this should simply be a chorus to your Hallelujah?

    I hope not.

  14. Like I’ve said, for the nth time, I’ll shut comments down– NOT because you disagree with me– but because there’s ridiculous spin on the same issue, over and over, after it’s already been debunked.

    I’m not a journalist. (I can prove you’ve visited this site tons of times before this story, fyi) I don’t strive for anything journalistic and never have in the two years I’ve been running this site.

    There are two individuals commenting here, on this story, from the Carolinas. And both of you have said positive things about Robert Felner on multiple occasions.

  15. I didn’t say visit. I said posted. I think I maybe read an article or two here before this because the page header looked familiar when I first tracked this thread, but I am not completely sure. I read interesting articles on web sites all over the country.

    I’d love to see a list of posts under what ever handle you think I’m using. So please, jake. Prove it to me.

    My internet handles are Panacea and Theala (which you can get from my email address). That’s it. I used your search engine to look for anything posts I might have made and forgotten about (I post on lots of sites on lots of stories that interest me). It turns up my posts as Panacea. Nothing under Theala.

    But you are right about one thing. I am from North Carolina. If you go to http://www.news-record.com you’ll find lots of posts from me there as Panacea. Theala, mostly gaming sites tho I do post as Theala on Nurse Link. Google Theala Sildorian. You’ll find a link to an old web page I no longer maintain (my Champions! website). Hopefully that will assure you of who I am, and that I am not one of these other two people you refer to (but haven’t named).

    I have no idea who Robert Felner is. Guess I’d better Google him.

    You speak of “reporting stories.” That’s what journalists do. So I believed you adhere to some sort of journalistic standard. I stand corrected. You’re not a journalist.

    You claim to have debunked me, I claim to have debunked you. You’ve never addressed the issue of bringing a camera into a hospital and taking pictures as a HIPAA violation. You clearly don’t understand how nurses view their profession and that we take professional issues very seriously.

    It’s sad in this day and age to think that people can trash the profession they are going into, yet not have to take accountability for it. Florence Nightingale is spinning like a top in her grave.

  16. Why didn’t I address taking a camera into an exam room? Because someone else already addressed it. It’s obviously a stupid thing to do. That, like the rest of this HIPAA discussion, has nothing to do with her dismissal from UofL. Nothing. Zero. That’s it.

    Really, you haven’t debunked me on anything. HIPAA wasn’t cited as a reason for her dismissal. Nothing specific was. And UofL refuses to say why she was dismissed and refuses to show up in court– just pushing things back further and further.

    And from September 2008 to current, there are 90+ comments from northstate.net / IP range of 198.86.109*. And more than 40 comments from various IP ranges at Guilford Technical Community College and the North Carolina Research and Education Network.

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