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LegalGAF - Universities

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Sep 28, 2008
I have a friend who explained to me a situation she was in a couple of weeks ago. I really tried to hear her out and did a little bit of research myself to corroborate what she told me about the type of response she was getting from her school and her experience from the one day she attended class. I don't think she reads GAF ... so I'm in the clear here.

She enrolled in a class through a public university that wasn't on-campus. It's held on private property. It's done in partnership with a private company. I checked the website for this "academy" and it is played up like a pop-up technical school.

Since the class is matriculated into the class offerings as a 1000 level course (along with any other subject offered) at a public university, there's information about the class, number of credit hours, who the instructor is, and a brief rundown on their website, too. It's legit. It's handled through her school's financial aid department.

Nowhere was there any wording that you'd be waiving your rights as a student attending a university class.

Red Flag 1:

She received a bunch of paperwork about a week before the class started with a very vague non-disclosure agreement, some parking information, emergency contact page, and a waiver saying that neither the private owner or any university participating in the program is liable for injury. They wanted everything signed up front prior to the first class.

It was an empty-ish building across totally separate from where any main business was going on. The instructor was vulgar. Cursed like a sailor. Questionable comments (can't verify ... but something like "can't tell blondes apart" when learning names?) There were occasionally people affiliated with the university system walking around checking on the class every hour or two. Long class since it's a six hour course in one day? It's enough to qualify people for different kinds of financial aid, I guess (more on that later?)

Theory is while the instructors might not be certified teachers, someone on-site technically has to be in order to make it okay?

Red Flag 2:

The instructor wanted students lifting heavy equipment in a "By the way, we want you to sign a waiver. In order to pass this class for college credit that might affect your GPA, you must do everything you're told." ... It's the type of you could really hurt yourself with. Electrical, heavy lighting equipment. 25-30 students with zero pre-requisites ... not an internship or work-study course, given a crash course and possibly expected to move this stuff. At one point, the instructor supposedly said you're, "fucking dead" if you drop this stuff.

Red Flag 3:

All of the information and assignments were to be done on social media or via personal e-mail. The instructor was adamant about not using university e-mail or their eLearning system to post a syllabus or use assignments.

It was all done by either Dropbox or Google Drive. I've heard of instructors asking students to use social media or write a blog for the context of the class but not for holding an entire class online. Universities I know of do not like this, discourage it, or outright ban it on accountability and verifying your identity. Financial aid and student account departments won't even talk to you if you're using your Gmail or Yahoo mail.

Syllabus information wasn't e-mailed until a day after drop/add ended. She ended up voicing her concerns about the class to the and the Dean who forwarded the concern to head of the department that signs off on these classes. They both responded to her fairly quickly but only suggested she drop the class.

She ended up dropping the class but felt forced to. It was something she was very interested and passionate about. They were going to offer her some last minute alternatives but the catch 22 was it required paperwork that wouldn't process before drop/add ended. Now they're giving her the cold shoulder like she's not their problem anymore.

The class sounds like a technical school sham. They give you a certificate after you complete a series of courses and the grading system is solely based on a subjective criteria on whether you're cut out to get a job or internship at this company or not. I read the evaluation page for grading. It started to come together that the class was nothing more than a work training program.

Never heard something like this from a university before.

I don't think it'd be a problem if they offered it directly without going through schools? It sounds like they order to get federal financial aid money and boost employment numbers and get local tax write offs. Crazy levels of stuff when I started thinking about it.

Legal Recourse?

I respect my friend a lot and believe her from what I've seen and heard. She tried consulting a few attorneys but they were either too busy or were in conflict of interest because they were representing the universities for other cases. Should I tell her to drop it and move on? It feels really shitty. Bigger schools aren't participating in it ... and it makes me think there's a reason why. I can't name the school or the company because they're big. Privacy and whatnot.

Is this right? tl;dr public universities make deals to hold classes off-campus technical classes, make people sign liability waivers and non-disclosure, treated like univerity class but clashes with uni policy, off the books assignment policy. Potentially VERY unsafe. Common? WTF?
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