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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Connecticut DOJ investigating Quinnipiac PA program’s compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act

The Connecticut Department of Justice is investigating the Quinnipiac University physician assistant program’s adherence to federal disability laws.

John Morgan, Quinnipiac’s associate vice president for public relations, confirmed the inquiry’s existence in a Nov. 14 statement to The Chronicle.

“We are cooperating with the DOJ’s investigation into the university’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as it pertains to students in the physician assistant program,” Morgan wrote.

It is not immediately clear when the Justice Department opened the investigation.

However, the civil rights inquiry is only the latest in a series of challenges facing Quinnipiac’s physician assistant program.

The program will be on accreditation probation through 2025 after the national accrediting body determined in September that it failed to meet almost 25% of the body’s standards.

Sixteen months earlier, former physician assistant student Alexandra Faulkner filed a lawsuit accusing Quinnipiac of, among other things, violating the ADA.

The parties “mutually resolved” the case in October 2023, Morgan said.

Faulkner alleged in the April 2022 complaint that Quinnipiac officials failed to accommodate her documented mental health disability, mishandled her discrimination allegations and unfairly dismissed her from the program in part because of her disability. She also alleged that program instructors discriminated against her Ukrainian nationality.

The suit further claimed that university administrators regarded the physician assistant program as “notoriously difficult to work with when it came to accommodating students’ disabilities and accommodation requests.”

Several former physician assistant students came forward in the weeks after Faulkner filed the suit to corroborate her allegations of mental health discrimination, calling the program’s environment “unsupportive,” “militaristic,” “toxic” and “cutthroat.”

In response to Faulkner’s lawsuit, a group of current and former physician assistant students penned a letter to the Connecticut DOJ urging it to investigate the program’s adherence to federal disability laws.

The letter, published on May 13, 2022, accused program administrators of disregarding “the recommendations of qualified experts or providers” in favor of giving students with disabilities “the minimum standard accommodations that they feel are ‘reasonable.’”

The letter furthermore claimed the program “punishes students with disabilities by placing them on probation, suspension or dismissal instead of seeking ways on how to better support them.”

“The discriminatory treatment, including the culture of mental health stigma created by the PA faculty, has been a destructive force for these students and their families,” the letter said. “We ask that your department investigate these claims and hold QU and the PA faculty accountable and responsible for any actions that you deem harmful and illegal to students, past and present.”

Faulkner was the third student since 2012 to accuse Quinnipiac of violating the ADA.

In a 2021 lawsuit, former nurse anesthesia student Derrick Sutton claimed the university failed to provide reasonable accommodations for his disability.

Nine years earlier, the DOJ opened an inquiry into Quinnipiac’s ADA compliance after university officials removed a student who sought on-campus mental health counseling.

Quinnipiac officials reportedly sent the student to the emergency room with a letter stating she could not return to campus without prior clearance from a university psychiatrist. The university refused to refund her tuition after removing her.

The university reached a settlement with the student in late 2014, paying out $17,000 for emotional damages and another $15,000 to pay off her student loan. However, the DOJ found that Quinnipiac’s failure to consider modifying its mandatory medical leave policy violated the ADA.

Quinnipiac subsequently created a non-discrimination clause to address its commitment to “providing equal educational opportunities and full participation for students with disabilities.”

“No qualified student will be excluded from participation in any university program or be subject to any form of discrimination based on disability,” the statement reads, in part.

Reiterating this commitment, Morgan said Quinnipiac strives to create “a learning environment that meets the needs of our diverse student body.”

“Any student experiencing any barriers to learning in any program is encouraged to contact the Office of Student Accessibility by emailing [email protected] or calling 203-582-7600,” he wrote.

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Comments (11)

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  • J

    JTJan 20, 2024 at 9:15 pm

    I actually cried when reading all of these articles pertaining to the toxic, discriminatory treatment of QU PA program students, because this is exactly what I experienced 10+ years ago when I was a QU ELMPA to PA student. It’s incredibly surreal to read all of this and hear of other student’s experiences and think, “wow, that’s exactly what I went through!” What I experienced was extremely traumatizing and is something that still sits heavy on my mind even almost a decade later. So I’m incredibly relieved that these issues are finally coming to light, and that QU and the QU PA program are finally being held accountable.

    Reply
    • R

      RichardJan 25, 2024 at 1:31 pm

      JT, you and others can still help. Please contact the DOJ and tell them of your experience. It will help their investigation and add to the growing list of ADA evidence that QU is doing their best to deny, ignore, and hide. It’s not okay to discriminate against a small group of students, and you have an opportunity to let QU know that what happened to you was traumatic and lasting.

      To this date, there has not been any statement of support, regret, or concern for any of the affected PA students. How can the QU PA faculty be practicing providers and still cause so much damage to students while citing their integrity and ethical values? Not to mention the administration that was involved as well…

      Reply
  • B

    BDDec 17, 2023 at 12:16 am

    Quinnipiac has a serious leadership issue – the same problems are occurring at the medical school, under the leadership of Lyuba Konopasek, who targets and harasses students with disabilities or forces them out. This is a very serious problem and QU must be held accountable, and justice must be administered for the students.

    Reply
    • R

      RichardJan 13, 2024 at 4:29 pm

      And yet this leadership is rewarded with no consequences – they get to come in the next day to an established career while the affected dismissed students have to bear the consequences that will continue to impact their lives for years to come. QU will do everything and anything to protect themselves, including covering for faculty that continue this discriminatory culture. I bet they will do everything they can to fight the DOJ investigation and never admit any fault.

      Reply
  • C

    CBDec 4, 2023 at 9:42 pm

    I wonder if Quinnipiac will admit to any wrongdoing and actually try to help the PA students that were mistreated, or if they will deny any wrongdoing and continue to have no accountability. Shameful that this has happened.

    Reply
  • R

    RichardNov 30, 2023 at 9:43 am

    For all who want to contact the DOJ to add to the investigation, please look at the letter link to the Connecticut DOJ article, and find the email address for Michelle McConaghy and Vanessa Avery.

    I Googled how to contact QU Chronicle and it provided a link to contact them with an email address and a direct phone number.

    QU posts their ADA compliance and has non-discriminatory statements throughout their website, but it doesn’t mean that they necessarily adhere to or follow them. The writers of the DOJ letter appealed to QU and their administration to follow their own posted values of nondiscrimination and compliance, but this is what ended up happening. An opportunity to be heard by someone who is interested in their experience, and will do the right thing.

    I would urge all students, family members, and friends to contact both DOJ and QU Chronicle regardless of the type of program or degree, if you have been needing a voice. Don’t let your silence be a form of acceptance and consent for discrimination.

    Reply
  • N

    NKDNov 30, 2023 at 9:35 am

    This program needs a complete overhaul. I was treated very unfairly as were many other students. Descriptions of program being cutthroat, toxic, and unsupportive are dead on accurate. QU PA graduates are still great providers, however.

    Reply
  • F

    FrankNov 29, 2023 at 8:57 pm

    This program sounds wonky. When I check bios for my provider I’ll be passing on QU grads…

    Reply
  • S

    SamNov 29, 2023 at 12:26 pm

    Had a terrible experience in 2017 regarding their treatment of military national guard members
    I wonder who I can contact to add to this investigation

    Reply
  • D

    DKMNov 29, 2023 at 11:06 am

    Would love to reach out to the author regarding my incredibly horrible experience with non- ADA compliance in this program and well as the ELMPA program

    Reply
  • R

    RosieNov 29, 2023 at 9:08 am

    I’m glad, because many years ago I was thinking about doing the PA program at QU, but was told by a woman that I won’t be allowed into the program due to my hearing impairment on my right side.

    Reply