Read THE HEARING - DAY 2 : Chapter 19 of Wild Justice, free online book, by Ruth M. Sprague, on ReadCentral.com.

When the nursing students heard that some of their evaluations had been sent off campus, in defiance of an explicit ruling pertaining to student confidentiality, Diana was blitzed with students clamoring to testify at her hearing so they could protest this indecency. As a group, they obtained hundreds of signatures on a petition requesting the A.C.L.U. to take up their cause. The A.C.L.U was most sympathetic, but on finding that the evaluations sent were not signed, felt there was nothing they could do.

The students argued that since the administration put such emphasis on handwriting identification, it might use this method to identify the writers of SmurFFs, which were supposed to be anonymous.

The group sent a strong letter of protest to The Pope and continued their campaign across campus. One of the leaders of these concerned students, Jennifer Glass, was the next witness for Diana.

Jennifer Glass worked in a downtown social service agency full time. She was taking the nursing nutrition course under the Continuing Education Department.

A rather large woman of thirty, she dressed well and showed no embarrassment or nervousness. She was educated extensively in New York State schools and had graduated an education major. Erudite and accomplished, she faced the panel with a most positive sense of anticipation.

“Yes,” she answered the direct examination question posed by Diana, “I am in your nutrition lab and I have talked with you extensively about the way evaluations are handled in the medical school.

“I came to you first to complain, thinking that the department was lax leaving them around in the lecture hall. I or anyone else could have filled out any number of them, since we were told to leave our finished evaluations in the NERD office. I was disturbed that the students were not taking them seriously. It seemed to indicate to me that the nutrition course was not considered important enough to be properly evaluated. That bothered me.

“You assured me that the evaluation process wasn’t unique to the nursing course and took me to the NERD office to see how the medical students evaluation was conducted.

“I was appalled. Throughout my training, it was stressed how important the process is. At the colleges I attended, they were taken seriously a representative from the student government would sign out the required number of forms from the administration official and bring them to the classroom.

“All teachers or instructors had to leave the room while we filled out our evaluation. They were collected, counted and brought back to the administration official. The data was given to the instructor but never the evaluations themselves because student confidentiality was considered to be an important step in the process.

“In contrast, at Belmont the evaluation process is a joke even the, er, enriched acronym, SmurFFs, this university has chosen to call the evaluation forms for student feedback attests to this.”

“Were you ever given specific instructions relating to the evaluations?” asked Diana.

“Yes, Dr. Lyle Stone, at the beginning of the course, told us that there would be evaluations periodically and that it was very important for us to fill them out since they would provide feedback on the course content and the instructors. He also stressed that they would be confidential.

“I remember being impressed, thinking, Oh great! Then instead of a proper evaluation procedure, the forms were left in piles at the end of rows to be filled out during the lecture or taken home to do. Just get them back before the end of the week, they told us.”

“Did you ever initiate a conversation with Lyle Stone regarding how you felt about document examiners and student confidentiality?”

“Yes, right after the lecture, the first part of this May, Roz Peel and a couple of other students and I went up to him after lecture.

“We told him that we were concerned that our student evaluations, which we had been told were confidential, and which we had been told had a specific purpose, had been sent outside the university without permission or knowledge of the students.”

“Would you be referring to these documents?” Trenchant got up from her chair and walked around the table until she came to where Jennifer was sitting and handed her exhibits 3 and 4 the SmurFFs Jimbo Jones was reported to have discovered.

“Yes.”

“What happened then?”

“He said that no student evaluations were sent out and that our confidentiality had not been breached.

“I disagreed with him and said that I had seen copies of those evaluations and the report of the document examiner. He started yelling then and became very defensive. He said that the only evaluations that were sent out had been written by you. We said that if he knew that, why send them out. Then he got abusive of you and said like you were crazy to do something like that. He said that they sent them to a document examiner because they knew you wrote them. He said he would never do that with any evaluation that a student made out.”

“Can you recall anytime during the first semester that I had an injured wrist and couldn’t put instructions on the board?”

“Yes, it was in December exam week, the 9th through the 13th. I did some of it for you.”

The panel started to bombard Jennifer with questions. Good, Henry thought, apparently they aren’t interested in her direct evidence relating to the incapacity of Diana as they are totally ignoring that testimony. Instead, they are giving all indications of being hurt by her denunciation of the way the evaluation process is carried out at Belmont.

A typical faculty reaction, Henry chuckled to himself as he listened. They aren’t asking questions, they’re defending our evaluation process by giving long speeches. Here’s Anuse explaining at length that the university takes student confidentiality very seriously and pays a great deal of attention to evaluations. He’s trying to stroke the witness into backing off from some of her allegations and it appears to be working....no, not any more, he went too far.

Jennifer was quite sharply reminding Frank that she had written her concerns to various administrative officials around campus and the fact that student evaluations had been misused had been confirmed.

I’d better help, thought Henry. “You must understand that Lyle Stone had to give the answers he did because by that time he knew the results of the examiners report and anything he said was referring to that.”

The witness, however, remained adamant. It was her distinct impression that Stone had already convinced himself that Diana had written the critiques before they were sent to the examiners.

The witness, however, remained adamant. It was her distinct impression that before they were sent to the examiners Stone had already convinced himself that Diana had written the critiques.

Henry was massively uncomfortable with what this suggested. It wouldn’t do to have the panel hear much more of this. He commenced another long speech, explaining that Lyle couldn’t have said anything like that because it was not Lyle Stone that sent the ‘suspect’ SmurFFs out it was Mark, the university attorney. “So you see, you must have misunderstood,” he concluded, patronizingly.

Before the witness could respond, Anuse professed not to understand why it made any difference how the evaluation was conducted. He went on and on in this vein in a querulous, whining voice.

Once he had wound down, Esther started to muddy the waters because she didn’t understand what was sent out and when. “Are you saying all the SmurFFs were sent off campus?” she asked.

“No, the discussion is about these ‘suspect’ evaluations,” explained Jane, indicating the exhibits.

“Well, that’s all right then,” Esther explained in a motherly tone to the witness, “those SmurFFs never left. The examiners came here yesterday and looked at them.” Esther had become more of a space cadet than ever, thought Jane. And obviously, Henry and Anuse are disturbed by this.

Stupid broad, thought Henry. He signaled Janet that the hearing was off the record and gathered the panel into a huddle to straighten out Esther before she did some real harm.

When the hearing reconvened, all the players went round again with paternal and maternal advice. Rather than asking for information from the witness, they took turns telling her that she hadn’t heard what she was testifying about. Obviously, she was mistaken.

“Now, I’m sure you see that no one was trying to attempt to have any student identified by having a document examiner look at these,” cajoled Anuse.

“That’s what you say. But I think what you have done is illegal. I really think it is illegal and if I find a way to do it, I am going to stop it....”

Anuse tried to interrupt, but Jennifer was on a roll. “We had an oral contract. Dr. Stone stood up in front of the whole class and told us what the evaluation forms were to be used for. And they weren’t, they were used for something else and that is not right.”

Henry was stung into action. He interjected to assure her that she must not worry because the administration would never violate a student’s confidentiality or go back on its word to them.

He thought he was pouring on oil, but Jennifer knew bullshit when she heard it. “I don’t believe it,” asserted Jennifer stoically.

Diana took this opportunity to reinforce Jennifer’s testimony with another example of the kind of honesty and fair play that the administration practiced. “You are arguing with my witness, not questioning her. She has good reason for her belief. When I came into this hearing, it was with the assurance from my department chairman and the chairman of this panel, both senior administrators, that I had been given all of the material that would be presented as evidence relating to the handwriting examiners.

“This proved to be unequivocally false. The evidence you have introduced, Mr. Chairman, contains many documents that were never given to me to examine before the hearing.”

This started another bout between Diane and Anuse, who apparently able to read Lyle’s and the chair’s mind, kept insisting that what Lyle and Henry meant was that Diana had been given all of the material available at that date.

Henry rushed in to agreed that yes that was what was meant. “Lyle gave you everything he had at that date.”

“Then it was incumbent upon this committee to see that I had all of the evidence before the hearing.”

“But,” protested the chair, “we didn’t get all the evidence ourselves until today.”

“Then it shouldn’t have been presented until I had an opportunity to examine it! I am finished with this witness.”

Henry quickly announced that there would be a break.

When they were back on the record, Henry announced, “Once the witnesses for Diana complete their testimony, we will call Lyle back to clear up the misconceptions this last witness has introduced. Also we will call Ann Biggot, and Mark...,” To straighten out the panel on the document examiners, he thought to himself. He continued, “while we are at it, we should probably hear from Jimbo.”

Apparently, thought Jane, if he hears anything contradictory to what he’s already established as correct, someone has to come back and explain it away.