WVU student files lawsuit over academic dishonesty dispute

MORGANTOWN — A WVU nursing student is suing the university, seeking injunctive relief over an academic dishonesty dispute.

Plaintiff Shelby Payne, represented by Ed Rollo, filed a lawsuit in Monongalia County Circuit Court last week, asking the court to compel the WVU Board of Governors to reinstate her Adult Health II (NSG 312) grade to 86 percent — the grade she said she earned.

John Bolt, WVU spokesperson, said the university does not discuss pending litigation.

In May, Payne took her final exam in NSG 312, monitored by her professor, Joanne Watson. Students took the test on laptops and grading was done automatically after the test was submitted, but students were not alerted to their grades until two hours later, the suit stated.

Watson, who could see the test results immediately, gave Payne a “thumbs-up” after Payne asked how she did. An email later told Payne she scored 86 percent.

Two days later, Payne received a letter from Watson, accusing her of academic dishonesty by “utilizing a cheat sheet on the final exam.” The letter said Watson requested the dean of the School of Nursing change Payne’s grade to an unforgiveable F, which means the grade can not be expunged.

The letter did not provide evidence of the cheating, the lawsuit stated. It was later learned another student contacted Watson after the exam to report Payne. The same student has previously accused other students of cheating, according to the suit.

Payne and her parents met with Watson the following week, where Watson informed Payne another student had accused her of cheating. Watson also said Payne “looked nervous” during the exam, but Watson presented no evidence, the suit stated.

There was no chance to confront the student accusing Payne and Payne agreed she was nervous, but it was not because of cheating, which she denied.

In a letter sent following the meeting, Watson said she did not confront Payne about her suspicions during the exam in order to not disrupt the class and because she knew Payne had another final to take. This contradicts what was said during the meeting, the suit stated.

Payne appealed the decision and was told in a letter from the Academic and Professional Standards Committee of the School of Nursing that it was upholding the charge of academic dishonesty, but was reducing the unforgivable F to a score of zero on the final exam, causing Payne to fail the course.

A second appeal submitted to Dean Tara Hulsey upheld the charge and grade of zero.

The suit says Payne is entitled to an injunction because without it, she will not be able to graduate on time and her ability to find gainful employment will be reduced.

Previous ArticleNext Article
William Dean The Dominion Post