As It Happens

College president fired for letting homeless student sleep on campus

When the president of Vatterott College in Kansas City, Missouri, let a homeless student sleep in a campus building overnight, he thought he was doing a good deed. But it ended up costing him his job.
Brian Carroll says he was fired from Vatterott College in Kansas City for allowing a homeless student to sleep on campus. (Brian Carroll/Vatterott College)

Read Story Transcript

When the president of Vatterott College in Kansas City, Missouri, let a homeless student sleep in a campus building overnight, he thought he was doing a good deed. But it ended up costing him his job.

Brian Carroll was locking up for the night earlier this month when he encountered the student, who has schizophrenia. Caroll knew about the student's illness, and could tell that he was off his medication.

To me that seemed like a life-threatening situation. So I did what I thought I had to do.- Brian Carroll, former president of Vatterott College, Kansas City

It was cold outside: minus-two farenheit, which is about minus-18 Celsius. Caroll told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann what happened next.

Helen Mann: Let's talk about that night in particular. What did he tell you about his living situation?

Brian Carroll: I said to him, 'You can't stay here. It's snowing, it's going to go to minus two, what are you doing tonight?' And he goes, 'I'll sleep where I always sleep.' And I go, 'Where's that?' And he says, 'Out in the woods.' And I went, 'Do you have any other place to go tonight?' And he says, 'Not really, I'll just go out there.'

HM: So you're thinking, 'What do I do?' So what did you decide?
Brian Carroll (Brian Carroll)

BC: I allowed him to spend the night. I put him in the library. There was this fake fireplace heater in the library, and I put him in front of it. So I said, 'Okay, if I let you stay in front of this fire, at 9:00 I want you out and I need you to take that bus and go down and get your meds.' And that's exactly what he did.

HM: So he abided by the conditions?  

BC: Right, that's 100 per cent what he did. No assets were damaged. 

HM: At any point did it occur to you that if you let him stay there you might lose your job?

BC: No. Maybe I'm just being naive but you know, I've been in education a really long time and I've been a president for at least eight years. But I've never been put in this situation before. I'm from southern California, and really to me that seemed like a life-threatening situation. So I did what I thought I had to do.

I had to weigh two risks: The risk of him destroying the place versus him possibly dying in the woods that night.- Brian Carroll

HM: When you were fired the school administration argued that you had a range of options that could have allowed you to help the student that night. What else might you have done?

BC: You can't put a student in a car, that's a school policy. You can't take him to your home, that's a school policy. So my only option left at that moment—on a Friday night, alone in the building with a student, and snow and ice falling out front—is to lock him out of the building, get in my car, drive and check out the hotel, find a room for him, pay for it, go back and while he's standing outside, tell him he has to walk to the hotel. 

HM: So you know you can't put him in the car, and you can't take him to your home. Those are written down rules. Were there any rules about a student sleeping on school facilities, on the campus?

BC: Interestingly enough, no. My job is to protect the corporate assets. I put them at jeopardy according to them. However nothing was stolen or damaged. So I'm not sure if I violated my responsibilities. I get it, I put it at risk, but I had to weigh two risks: The risk of him destroying the place versus him possibly dying in the woods that night.

HM: How are you doing?

BC: It's kind of rough. I'm trying to get home. It's winter, and you know, I've had to pack up everything, I spent a week doing that, and get everything back to California. It's hard. And I don't have a job. So you know, it's tough.

HM: Would you do it the same way all over again?

BC: Looking back, I probably would have paid for the hotel room myself. But I still would have put him in the car and driven him to the hotel. And that would be grounds for firing too.

___________________________________________________________________

Vice president for the college, Paul Ferrise, told the Kansas City Star that Carroll shouldn't have let the student sleep in the library. "Mr. Carroll had a range of options available to him to help the student. He made a bad decision," Ferrise said. He then cited privacy concerns about the student.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Brian Carroll.

 

now