Students need real leadership, not the kind that allows things like this happen.
By Jacob Engels
Late last week, a federal lawsuit was filed against Valencia College, alleging that school officials pressured, retaliated against and ostracized students who questioned the practice of student on student vaginal probing.
The suit, filed by two students who are listed as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, details how Barbara Ball, chair of the college’s sonography program harassed students who wished to not participate in the peer examinations.
According to the documents, Ball and Linda Shaheen, a clinical lab coordinator for the school regularly reduced grades as a form of retaliation for students who spoke out about the peer-on-peer vaginal probes. Lab technician Maureen Bugnacki was also involved in orchestrating campaigns against students who became uncomfortable with the weekly examinations.
The plaintiffs allege that if you expressed discomfort over participating in the examinations, Ball and her lieutenants… Sheehan and Bugnacki would tell students to “find another program.”
During one exchange, Ball told a female student that she was “sexy” and had the body of an “escort.” Students had to disrobe in a bathroom down the hall and then walk with nothing more than a towel to the classroom.
Stephanie Porta, the executive director of Organize Now, a non-profit that fights for social, racial and economic justice said she stands with the women of Valencia who are seeking justice.
“How demeaning and destructive it must be for a woman, lying on the table in order to get a grade, while our state legislators pass laws further controlling women’s bodies.”
Porta has worked as a community activist and organizer on issues such as health care, environmental and economic justice. The school has issued a release standing behind the vaginal probings, claiming that it is a common and accepted practice.
Belle Isle City Commissioner Lydia Pisano, told us that students should not be using each other. The Bell Isle locale is situated near several Valencia College campuses.
“This is a travesty. The school has high-tech and anatomically correct mannequins that they use. Did school officials even think about the liability if one of the students was injured during one of these examinations?”
Pisano went on to say that the school and its leadership, should be held accountable, along with any instructors or employees who knew that this was occurring.
“It is sad because it is a great program for Valencia. I am concerned that this will jeopardize it. They may have totally comprised the integrity of the program and college.”
The first official communique from the school comes after it was revealed that professors encouraged students to sexually stimulate other students who were not responding comfortably to the weekly forced probing. View the the whole lawsuit below.
Valencia College Vaginal Probe Lawsuit
This scandal, should draw renewed interest into the leadership style, and lack of oversight from the school’s guitar strumming President, Sandy Shugart.
Shugart, who has served as the schools President since 2000, has earned a name for himself as a tough nosed, and at times intimidating leader. His success as President, some say, comes as a result of his “us against them” mentality that singles out those who break ranks with his wishes as President.
Where was the oversight from the schools leadership when these students (male and female) were essentially being forced to enter other female students, with fear of being expelled from the program if they refused to partake in the vaginal probe?
Where was the President, who ultimately oversees the entirety of the college’s activities, both student and faculty? Or the female board members who sat by as female students were forcibly entered by a medical device while a professor, someone whom they should trust, encourages the despicable activity while commenting on the favorable anatomy of her students?
Chairwoman Maria Grulich, and board members Daisy Lopez-Cid…Linda Landman Gonzalez, where were you?
Maybe the President was too busy holding another acoustic concert or recording another album. Or schmoozing with the well connected at the prestigious Citrus Club in Downtown Orlando.
Or enjoying his nearly $500,000 annual compensation package, regularly vacationing in North Carolina.
One has to wonder what President Shugart intends to do in response to these allegations. Will he stand with the students who were forced to engage unwillingly in vaginal probes, or with the faculty who encouraged them to sexually stimulate other students and commented on how “sexy” they were during the forced entries?
Whatever his response, it’s beginning to seem more apparent that his lack of oversight and infrequent challenge from current board members is contributing to an atmosphere of rampant disregard, where faculty runs amok… unchecked and unsupervised.
An attorney familiar with representing governments against similar lawsuits said she would not be surprised if this lawsuit settled in the high six-figures, if not several million.
“This will damage the college’s reputation for decades to come, if even the basic points raised in the legal challenge are true. How does a school with the reputation of Valencia allow something like this to happen?”
The students of Valencia – current, former and future deserve better.
Who will hold Valencia College President Sandy Shugart, the board of trustees and employees involved to account?
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at email@example.com