Listen to the first episode of the Whistleblower of the Week podcast on Youtube. In this week’s episode, Jane Turner interviewed for-profit Globe University whistleblower Heidi Weber.
For more context on this week’s episode, read Jane’s column:
A few years ago, I gave a short introduction to open the National Whistleblower Day celebration in Washington, DC. This event honors whistleblowers, and people look forward to attending. If you never had the opportunity to mingle with other whistleblowers and hear from experts in the whistleblower world, the National Whistleblower Day celebration offers an excellent opportunity for this. In those few minutes of an introduction, I mentioned how important it was that no one should take a whistleblower’s voice. That a whistleblower should speak their truth, unfiltered and not subject to the manipulation of others.
I did not mention that a whistleblower should not let anyone steal their action of speaking truth to power. Each and every whistleblower has brought change into the world. Some are small changes, and others are massive. Change does happen when an individual blows the whistle on corruption, waste and fraud.
I recently read an Op-Ed by Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary. The Op-Ed, “Political vendettas against career schools hamper access to necessary programs. Globe University suffers the wrath of partisan ideologies,” was published in the Washington Times last year. Spicer stated, “The Globe and other for-profit institutions suffered relentless attacks under the Obama administration along with undeterred attacks by state attorneys general, and some misguided members of Congress. Former Wisconsin Rep. Steve Gunderson knows the Globe and its owners well and cites this as the best example of the Obama administration’s ideological vendetta against career schools. The Globe, according to him, was one of the good guys, the proverbial baby that got thrown out with the bath water.”
Shortly afterward, David Halperin, writing for the Republic Report under the headline “Sean Spicer Shills for Predatory For-Profit Colleges,” noted in a lengthy article one sentence about the whistleblower that brought Globe University down. Halperin said, “In 2013, a former Globe dean, Heidi Weber, won a $400,000 whistleblower lawsuit against Globe after she was threatened and then fired for reporting deceptive recruiting in the school’s medical assisting program.
Halperin’s article talks about Sean Spicer grifting in the for-profit college industry, “shilling for the owners of Globe University, a Minnesota-based chain of career schools that shut down after the state’s attorney general proved in court that the schools were aggressively ripping off students.”
Sean Spicer pushed the fiction that Globe University collapsed due to “the wrath of partisan ideologies.” In response, Halperin laid out a cognizant and well thought out article noting Globe University’s demise was due to recruiters lying to students, exaggerated job placement rates, starting salaries, and the amount of financial aid available. Halperin also noted that “at its peak, Globe and Minnesota School of Business, (MSB) which operated programs in health care, business, technology, and other fields, had some 10,000 students at 20 campuses in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, and was getting around $125 million annually in taxpayer-funded student grants and loans.”
Lost in the fog of Spicer’s allegations and the documentation of the legal ramifications by Halperin, the political mudslinging and posturing, was the fact that one single whistleblower had taken this college of cards down, Heidi Weber. Last week I dedicated Whistleblower of the Week to her. I noted how she was responsible for bringing evidence forward that eventually resulted in a court decision that Globe had engaged in consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices. Weber’s whistleblowing was directly responsible for the demise of the Globe empire. Yet only one sentence in a lengthy article noted her.
Why are whistleblowers marginalized? Being marginalized seems to come with the whistleblower experience, as they are often stigmatized, harassed, and blacklisted for life. Federal employees are the only major sector within the U.S. workforce that cannot bring retaliation cases to a district court. The existing administrative procedures available to federal whistleblowers today don’t work. The Merit Systems Protection Board has lacked a quorum for three years. That means neither the MSPB nor the Office of Special Counsel can compel an agency to suspend a personnel action taken against a whistleblower.
Not being able to take their case to court muzzles whistleblowers, taking away their voice. The reality is others tell the whistleblower’s story, and the whistleblower’s voice is not allowed to be heard. Whistleblower of the Week enables whistleblowers to tell their stories in their voices. This week, Heidi Weber is featured in a podcast. In the future, Whistleblower Network News (WNN) will feature more podcasts spotlighting other whistleblowers. WNN will also feature reviews of books written by whistleblowers. WNN wants to amplify whistleblowers’ voices because they are the heroes our world so desperately needs.
If you are a whistleblower, do not allow someone to take your voice. Write your book, stay in the public eye, make your relevance known. Attend National Whistleblower Day and/or the Whistleblower Summit and be around other heroes. Reach out to other whistleblowers, reach out to Congress, reach out to the media, but never give up the power of your voice, or allow someone to take the power of your story.