Neither elevated nor maintained

As recently reported in The Commercial, the Arkansas State Board of Nursing has closed the nursing program at UAPB after determining that the school’s administrators and faculty members had failed to correct chronic problems with curriculum, materials and student pass rates on mandatory tests.

The board had placed UAPB’s nursing program on probation in 1977, 1981, 1992, 2005 and 2010, said Sue Tedford, executive director of the state agency. None of the state’s other nursing programs are currently under probation.

It’s worth noting that the UAPB program (begun in 1974) only ran three years before it was deemed bad enough to merit state revocation of its approval.

From this there are a number of lessons to be learned. Given the university administration’s inability to learn from its mistakes for almost four decades, we wonder what the likelihood is that leaders will learn them now.

Apologists will demand a second chance for the program. That day passed — and passed and passed — each time the state sidelined the program.

The Florence Nightingale pledge that many nurses take reads in part: “I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession … .” Apparently, that too was lost in the morass.

The nursing program administrators have proved time after time that they are unable to abide by the standards and practices of nursing education that bind all other similar programs in the state. Sadly, the university administration has also proved that it is willing to turn a blind eye — again and again and again. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have suborned waste and ineptitude for four decades.

From all this a few necessary steps must follow. First a top-to-bottom analysis of the faculty and administrators directly associated with the nursing program must occur. And with any such meltdown, some will need to be shown the door.

Second, an audit of university-level procedures must be conducted to determine how this travesty was allowed to persist. The failures wrought by the nursing program were only possible because individuals higher in the university administration allowed them to be.

Lastly, the entire university community should take this opportunity for some deep existential contemplation. As the Commercial also reported, UAPB’s enrollment continues its steady decline. The university enrolled 2,828 students in the fall semester, 11 percent fewer than it enrolled in the fall 2011 semester. It would behoove those with an interest in the continued existence of the university to ask why such a precipitous and sustained decline is in effect.

As many people in our local community have begun to recognize, continuing on the well-trod path just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is no longer a sufficient reason to stay the course. The world has changed around UAPB. If it is to continue, it cannot afford any more debacles like it created with the nursing program. It cannot afford to tick happily along just because we think it ought to do so.

Educational resources are too scarce and a college education costs too much to continue investing in an institution that fails to manage itself and fails to make an ongoing case for its continued relevance. This is the wake-up call. It’s time for serious change.