Judge: NWACC Student’s Blog Illegally Defames School’s Provost

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A NorthWest Arkansas Community College administrator won his defamation lawsuit Thursday against a former respirator therapy student who leveled accusations against the administrator on her blog and in emails to local media, said Benton County Circuit Court Judge John Scott.

Scott said he found in favor of Steven Gates in a defamation lawsuit filed in Circuit Court last year. He also ordered Francesca Cataldo to remove statements she made about Gates on her web blog, which calls Gates a “bully” and accuses nursing program officials creating unrealistic academic expectations for students.

Gates is the school’s senior vice president for learning and provost.

The blog also alleges other administrators ignored the students’ complaints. In the blog “Corruption At NorthWest Arkansas Community College,” the author alleges nursing instructors failed most of a class, before fabricating grades to make it look like most passed. The most recent entry, made Monday, is titled, “NWACC is a Corporate Serial Bullying Culture.” A drawing depicting a skeleton removing a Hitler mask from its face accompanies the entry.

A letter from “Concerned NWACC Nursing Class of 2014” was emailed Jan. 7 to Gates, school President Evelyn Jorgenson, other school officials and the news media. The letter states, “We are writing to tell you of the many wrong-doings perpetrated on the students that are occurring within the nursing program.”

The letter goes on to state that two instructors “have singled out various (sic) students to bully, harass and sabotage their efforts to learn and to make progress within this program.”

The email also alleges that instructors in the nursing program rarely teach, but rather host “four-hour lecture classes”.

Jorgenson later stated she and her staff would look into the complaints, and a school spokesman said NWACC could not properly respond to the complaints while the complaining students remained anonymous.

The judge said Cataldo admitted to defaming Gates on her blog, leading to his ruling in the administrator’s favor.

Gates’ lawsuit states he does not want any money out of the legal action, instead saying he just wants the references defaming him to be taken off of the blog, Scott said.



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