NEW ORLEANS - It's one of the state's premiere nursing schools.
But faculty members say the program at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in Algiers is in limbo after the controversial departure of a key school leader.
Dr. Patricia Prechter served as both dean of the award-winning nursing program and as college provost. Faculty members say the latter was meant to be a temporary position that she took on while the school was in transition.
Prechter wanted to leave her provost position to focus on the nursing school, but Holy Cross President Dr. Ronald Ambrosetti interpreted that as a full resignation.
He told her to leave within 24 hours, confirmed college spokesman Jeffrey Ory.
“We've been sad, we've been hurt, we've been upset. We've been fighting to bring her back,” said Kelsea Bice, president of the Student Nurses Association and graduating senior.
Students have made red t-shirts with the words “Bring Back Pat” and posted fliers in support of Prechter.
“She's respected by everyone at the college, so this is very upsetting to everyone,” said Linda Schexnayder, an assistant professor of nursing.
Wednesday, faculty members unanimously issued a vote of no confidence in Ambrosetti.
They say his actions have left the nursing school in imminent danger of failing because so many faculty members are are planning to resign in protest. And they say that, because the nursing and pre-nursing programs are made up of more than half the student body, the future of those programs will have ripple effects throughout the entire school.
Schexnayder and Marie McGregor are among more than half a dozen nursing professors who have decided to resign since Prechter's departure last month. That's more than a third of the nursing school's full-time faculty, according to the faculty.
“I don't feel like I can work with an administration that would do this to a program that has been so successful,” said McGregor.
“The college faculty feel like this is going to impact enrollment,” said Schexnayder.
Since the nursing school has been without a dean for the last month, Ory admits it's now out of compliance with the State Board of Nursing and the Accreditation Commission. But he emphasizes that doesn't mean the college has lost it's accreditation. It hasn’t, because it is actively searching for an interim dean.
Now, students and faculty say they are praying for the future of the college's largest program and hope Prechter will return.
"We remain committed and are working quickly to identify and hire an interim chair for our nursing program,” said Ambrosetti in a statement.
He said he is in constant contact with the state board of nursing, which has expressed support for the program and is assisting with the nationwide search for an interim dean.