A homeless ex-nursing student has taken to TikTok to voice serious allegations against Binghamton University and United Health Services (UHS) Hospitals.
Oliver Horne first joined Decker College of Nursing and Public Health’s Baccalaureate accelerated track (BAT) program in 2020, learning remotely before extending his stay an additional year. According to Horne, his tuition was supported through his work at UHS as a nursing assistant, with him working around 64 to 80 hours a week during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While at UHS, Horne said he met what he presumed to be two alumni mentors through a nursing groupchat.
“I was introduced to them through the faculty-monitored Facebook group for Nursing Students,” Horne said. “Like it was full of nursing instructors, faculty, professors and all of the above. So I was thinking that it was legit because those two students had reached out to me saying they were mentors, representatives of the school, of the hospital because they were both hired for registered nurses.”
Once under their mentorship, however, Horne claims he was used as a front by one of his mentors, who was attempting to cheat on their partner. Horne thought the issue had been taken care of after confronting the mentor regarding their behavior, but said the mentor soon subjected Horne to a “tirade.”
“He went on this tirade about his father being my complexion, his father having green eyes and that he hated the fact that he didn’t get those green eyes,” Horne said. “And [he said] that he didn’t care about the trauma that was happening to me or in my life and that he was going to get me pushed out of the school and the hospital because he wanted to be the only gay black one.”
Horne also claimed to face other harassment at UHS, including sexual harassment, having his pay threatened and fellow staff members hanging up signs that criticized his job performance. Horne was eventually put into a constructive dismissal by UHS. Christina Boyd, vice president of community relations for UHS, said UHS was aware of Horne’s allegations of harassment, but had no further comment.
Horne continued to progress in the BAT program, reaching the clinical requirement with a goal to graduate in April 2022. However, Horne said that his plans changed when he was assigned to UHS. According to Horne, he reported his experience at UHS to his instructors and undergraduate nursing director.
“So when [the University] scheduled me for clinical at UHS, I went to my instructors and the undergraduate nursing director,” Horne said. “And I said, ‘Hey, I’ve had some really bad, really traumatic experiences here with your graduates, one of your graduates who is going to be a student this fall in the nurse practitioner program, and I want to make sure that I’m being safe, and that my classmates are going to be safe and that none of this is going to affect my education because this nursing program is all that I have.’”
After meeting with Leora Kenney, a nursing instructor, on June 28, 2021, Horne felt encouraged to speak out. After speaking out, however, Horne said he was soon “blacklisted and banned” from the nursing program. He claimed that his course schedule had changed from the BAT program’s requirements, and that he was made to take an exam he had already passed without his disability accommodations.
“That all ties in because I had then received a call from an instructor telling me that I was being targeted by the nursing director and the professor of the course,” Duane said. “That they were doing shady things behind the scenes because I had reported what happened to me at [UHS] Hospitals, because the dean had also told me that me coming forward could potentially cause them to lose clinical placements for everyone else.”
After receiving a D in the course and on the verge of being failed out, Horne attempted to initiate the formal grievance process within Decker, but the list of grievance items he sent to the University was rejected. In a letter from the following Appeals Committee, the committee detailed their decision.
“Despite repeated attempts, Mr. Horne failed to provide the committee with specific academic charges that are actionable and within the purview of the grievance committee,” the letter reads. “In the list of grievance items provided by Mr. Horne on Jan. 31, none of them was in the purview of the grievance committee. Furthermore, these eight items did not specify who was being charged.”
Horne insists, however, that he was told the evidence for his claims had not been properly reviewed prior to his dismissal. Horne could not find legal support to pursue the matter forward after being told that the University and UHS had ties to most law firms within a “100-mile area”.
Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations for BU, said the University does not agree with Horne’s version of the story.
“The University denies the characterization of the circumstances as alleged in this matter, but are prohibited from discussing it in great detail by applicable state and federal laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),” Yarosh said. “While we cannot comment on specific cases, rest assured that we have, and will continue to take all reports of discrimination matters seriously and offer every resource available to investigate each case brought to our attention thoroughly.”
Horne also described how he struggled to find people to support his claims. In one TikTok posted on July 9, Horne shared screenshots of an apparent text exchange between himself and a student who said he could backup Horne’s claims.
After the initial conversation, the now-nursing alumni said they would not come forward.
“I look forward to starting at UHS, so I don’t want to be involved with anything that can jeopardize my employment, you know,” the student wrote in the message. “Plus, I’m over Decker and ready to move on.”
With most formal options exhausted, Horne turned to social media. Horne began to produce a series of videos on TikTok detailing his allegations, containing a series of screenshots and audio recording from meetings he had with Decker and BU administration.
“It was really a process of making sure I had all of my ducks in a row,” Horne said. “Not just documenting a few things here and there, but like making sure that I had all of my emails saved, that I have my text messages, my audios and making sure that I am not allowing my feelings to get in the way of what factually occurred, and that is I feel a very difficult task for anyone with something that is so personal.”
Taking the moniker of “equalityalley”, Horne has built a following of around 14,000, and often gets a thousand or more views per video he releases. Horne has also started a GoFundMe page, having currently raised a little over $3,900.
Horne expressed that he will continue to advocate for himself until he can take BU and UHS to court.
“If me begging via email wasn’t enough for them to stop, and me being on TikTok is not enough for them to stop, then I have to keep advocating for myself and fighting and raising awareness until I am able to retain legal representation and hold them accountable since they don’t want to take ownership for this and resolve this like adults,” Horne said. “They have completely scarred me mentally and emotionally from stepping into another academic environment and another healthcare environment because of the way they’ve treated me.”