An Ivy League College fired a whistleblower who reported “bending” of federal regulations to keep international student enrollment high, according to a lawsuit.
In a lawsuit obtained by Radar, Yocasta Brens filed suit against the Teacher’s College of Columbia University in New York City. The suit was filed this week in federal court. Brens once worked as the college’s director of the Office of International Student Services.
The lawsuit stated that Brens was an exemplary employee between 2019 and 2021 when she worked at the college.
But, in 2019, Brens alleged that the college’s director of the Office of International Affairs requested that Brens and her staff process immigration documents on behalf of a group of potential students from South Africa.
She requested the processing without the necessary documentation, including evidence of funding and full-time engagement in a prescribed program — both required by federal regulations, the suit stated.
Then in December, a dean accused Brens of being too “inflexible” in the application of federal regulations, according to the student.
Brens followed the college’s whistleblower policy and filed a complaint in 2019 against the director of the Office of International Affairs. Months later, Brens was told she would then be reporting to that director.
In October, Brens said the director still refused to provide health insurance documentation for the students, which was required by federal law.
Brens also told another administrator that she was “frequently asked to ‘bend’ the rules” to keep enrollment of international students at a high level, according to the filing.
Specifically, Brens contended she was directed to certify certain international students were enrolled full-time, when they were not full-time students. She also extended the students’ immigration documents when they did not qualify based on federal requirements. She was also directed to ignore the student’s lack of English language proficiency, again a federal requirement.
Then in March 2021, Brens was fired from the school, though the lawsuit did not specify a reason.
Officials from the Teacher’s College did not respond for comment in time for this report.
The lawsuit argues the Brens had a right to be protected from retaliation and it asked for an unspecified amount of money.