Brandon University’s master class in poor public relations has continued with the ongoing saga of a Nursing Foundations II exam.
From a public relations perspective, this ridiculous situation should have been limited to a single story in The Brandon Sun — or, even more ideally for both the university and the students, no story at all.
Instead, here we are.
Earlier this month, The Brandon Sun received a call from a relative of a nursing student at Brandon University who had been told their entire Nursing Foundations II class would have to retake their final exam.
The exam had been "compromised," according to the university.
Despite the class being comprised of between 46 and 48 students, the Sun was unable at the time — and remains unable — to get any of them to speak on the record to clarify matters.
"No comment" doesn’t, and will never, mean no story, so our initial piece leaned into Brandon University’s response, including a letter from Faculty of Health Sciences dean John Moraros, which accused the students of "academic dishonesty and/or misconduct."
Students were made to re-write the exam with a potential top grade of 70 per cent, with the 30 per cent balance shaved off the top as punishment.
University spokesperson Grant Hamilton declined to answer basic questions at the time, such as whether the professor used an online test bank for his final exam as well as whether what the students did would be considered cheating — context that might have helped clarify to the public what, exactly, the students were accused of doing.
Instead, Hamilton, and by extension the university, settled on the narrative that nursing students did something wrong and deserved punishment.
We’ve received a number of phone calls at our office about this ongoing story. Among the most telling of these stories was from a former Brandon University nursing student who works as a nurse in Winnipeg. In conversation with a colleague, she was informed that all nursing students at Brandon University were dishonest, which prompted her to look into it to see what they were talking about.
In fairness, this is the narrative Brandon University shared by punishing an entire class.
Now, a few weeks later, we’ve been informed that an investigation into the matter remains ongoing, which is a bizarre turn of events given the university has already punished the students and allowed for a message that they were dishonest to hit the public.
Even worse, the Brandon University Students’ Union did nothing to publicly advocate for the students under their charge. It wasn’t until Thursday — a few weeks after the initial report — that president Olusola Akintola finally said students were not treated fairly.
Our message to students now is that, as from the very beginning, we remain interested in writing more about your side of the story in the event any of you choose to come forward.
The university is expected to offer an official statement at some point within the next couple weeks, but gleaning from what we can now surmise have been their unofficial statements, we are losing faith in their transparency.
If students want the full story to come out, whatever it might be, we urge them to come forward and speak with us.
Updated on Friday, January 24, 2020 at 9:22 AM CST: A word in the opening sentence of this editorial had a typo. It has been fixed as of 9:21 a.m. on Jan. 24.