Former Edison VP says faculty shuffle could hurt re-accreditation
FORT MYERS - They're dropping like flies!
Edison college administrators all seem to be leaving at once - whether they want to or not!
At first glance, the rash of resignations, retirements and firings appears to be fallout from the course swapping scandal that may threaten the college's accreditation.
It's costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars since your tax dollars fund Edison State.
Former VP, Steve Atkins, predicts more heads will roll.
"If you speak out and speak honestly, you risk jeopardizing your position," he said.
Atkins says he found evidence that students were being allowed to take easier classes in place of harder required courses since at least 2005 - possibly as far back as 2003.
Atkins is among those who have been fired in the wake of the scandal.
But he says the college president, Dr. Ken Walker, fired him because he was still upset about something else.
"He could never forgive me for filing a discrimination complaint against him," said Atkins.
Atkins says he felt compelled to make a formal report as the college considered hiring an African-American candidate to head up its nursing program.
Dr. Browder is among those who left the school over the past year.
Atkins says Edison hired the same law firm that defended it against the job candidate's claims of discrimination to lead an investigation of whether there was discrimination in the college's hiring practices.
"My greatest crime (in Dr. Walker's eyes) was reporting discrimination and telling the truth about course subsutations," said Atkins.
Dr. Atkins says had to do a lot of digging to find out why students were being allowed to substitue easier classes for harder core classes in violation of college rules and state law.
"It took me a year to find out the real problem - that we had something very underhanded going on and I stoppped it," said Atkins.
Dr. Walker has said he fired Dr. Atkins because Atkins kept Walker "out of the loop" on the scandal.
Dr. Atkins denies that saying, "I reported it to my supervisor."
And he says the other deans told a top administrator, Dr. Edith Pendleton, about the problem.
"They told her they were appalled," he said.
Atkins gave examples of the kind of illegal course swapping that was going on.
"Oceanography instead of surveying," he said.
"A course in oral communcations rather than a course in explosives."
"It was that extreme in some cases," he added.
The swapping, he says, has led to unqualified people getting degrees and jobs in the community.
Fox 4 has also heard from a number of students whose Edisons degrees aren't accepted by higher institutions of learning.
Yet, when Atkins says when Dr. Pendleton went before the Edison board of trustees, she said there was not a problem with course substitutions.
"She lied to the board and she's still at the college," Adkins said.
Atkins says that's because Pendleton is friends with Walker.
He says Walker has treated him very differently - "trumping up" reasons to fire him.
"He was trying to find a way to getting rid of me, and discrediting me in the eyes of the board" said Atkins.
"It's about all retaliation for me bringing the discrimination to light."
"I was also going to file a grieveance against him (Dr. Walker) for hostile work environment," Atkins said.
But he says Dr. Walker had "become abusive" and fired him before he could file a grievance.
"Right now he (Dr. Walker) is trying to protect his legacy and repuation by trying to discreidt people who speak the truth."
Atkins joins growing number of administrators who've left, been fired, or re-assigned over the past several months.
In some cases, the college has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to former employees as part of secret departure agreements.
"The turmoil that's occurred and these erractic moves over that last year hasn't helped the college." Atkins said.
"It's an unstable work environment," he added.
And he says the volatile situation could affect the school's bid for re-accreditation.
"They're going to have a hard time, a very hard time with accredidation." Atkins said.
He says the main problems at the school are Dr. Walker and the board of trustees which "doesn't question" Dr. Walker and gives him "carte blanche" to do as he pleases.
But Atkins adds Edison still has a lot to offer to its faculty, staff, students and the community.
"What's good about Edison hasn't changed and that's what happens in the classroom," he said.
Fox 4 asked Drs. Walker and Pendleton for their response to his statements about them.
But an Edison spokesperson says neither administrator nor the college itself will comment.
"After (then administrator) Dr. Browder asked us if this candidate was African-American, they did all they could to do to throw obstacles in our way, to prevent us from hiring the candidate,"