On Campus Blog

Fired medical-assistant dean recounts her time at Globe-MSB

How good a worker was she? (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)
How good a worker was she? (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

Former Globe University / Minnesota School of Business dean Heidi Weber continued her testimony today in her whistleblower suit against the school.

I've already summarized what she had to say in my coverage of her suit, but here are some more details.

When Weber became the network dean of Globe's medical assistant program in 2010, she said, the program was "in disarray." Some campuses were struggling with academic problems, struggling to maintain accreditation, and had a hard time providing students with the externships they needed to successfully complete the program.

Soon after she began working at Globe, Weber said, she began to “piece together what was going on” in the school’s culture. She said that once students enrolled, "concern for the student was over. Every question was: How does it help the organization from a business standpoint?"

Weber’s main complaints centered on Globe's changing of accrediting agencies and its failure to notify students in a timely manner that criminal convictions could prevent them from getting hired.

She said when she first began raising concerns about Globe's practices, she was told not to put them in writing, because "they could be used against (Globe) down the line."  Putting them in writing, she recalled being told, "could be perceived as being not loyal."

So Weber said she voiced concerns only on the phone or in person. Later, she said, she became fed up and began writing things down.

Weber said she opposed Globe's decision to switch accreditation agencies from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) -- which she called the "gold standard" for the industry -- to the less stringent Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

Weber told the jury that students from ABHES-accredited schools had significantly lower pass rates on board certification tests, which made it more difficult for them to get jobs.

Globe failed to tell students about the switch until after it happened, she said.

“Students deserve to know … their education may not be as valuable" as when they started school, Weber said.

Globe also failed to tell medical assistant students early enough they would need to pass a criminal background check before they could get an externship, Weber said. Employers, she said, generally wouldn’t hire a student with a felony conviction.

Weber said the school performed the background check toward the end of the program -- just before students were to take the externship. By then, she said, the students had already invested a lot of time and money to get the degree.

And the former dean said the disclosure that students did get was in "legalese" that students couldn’t easily understand.

She said she got a lot of calls from students who complained they hadn’t been told of the requirement or the consequences of having a felony.

Weber said that when one Globe official heard her concerns, she replied: "Well, at least we have them for a few quarters."

Weber also said the school failed to provide enough externships for students so they could graduate on time. Many of the jobs were farther than 50 miles away from students, she said, or were in inappropriate facilities -- such as nursing homes -- that didn't require their specialized skills or give them the experience they needed.

“I got so many calls,” Weber told jurors. “They’d get filtered to me. I’d hear these students angry.”

She also said Globe calculated job-placement rates differently than its accrediting agency required. As a result, she said, many campuses posted rates that were better -- in at least one case by more than 20 percent -- than they would have been had they been calculated correctly.

Weber said she took her complaints up the chain of command. But in the end, she said, Globe executives "threw me out like a piece of garbage."

She said when Provost David Metzen fired her, however, he told her, "This has nothing to do with your performance. We're going in a different direction with the program."

Weber made about $57,000 a year, but said she received a $2,000 merit raise 15 months before she was fired. She said she had won "accolades" for her performance during her time at Globe. In one example, she said, she won praise for working out an arrangement with a textbook publisher that saved students at least $100 each.

Yet on at least one of her assessments, which were graded on a five-point scale, Weber received just above a three.

She told the jury, "No one ever got a 5. ... And I was told never to give 4s and 5s by my supervisor."

Because of her experience with Globe, Weber said, "I'll never work in education here again."

She said she put out several hundred job applications. She worked as a medical assistant at a urology clinic, she said, but quit after about a year because she didn’t have the stomach for urology work.

A calculation by her and her attorney indicated her firing from Globe cost her about $300,000 in lost compensation.

Globe's attorney began his cross examination of Weber today, and it will continue on Thursday.