Your readers may find the case- ‘Green vs. Drexel’ interesting. Legally it is a breach of contract suit brought by 18 MBA Candidates.
It boils down to Drexel University ripping off MBA students by advertising an 11 day international trip to China in their newest and greatest high profile MBA curriculum and upon canceling it, refusing to give the money back. Drexel has been found guilty and the damages hearing is scheduled for the week of May 23rd. I am one of the plaintiffs. Included is an Inquirer article published when the judgment went to the students.
Please call me if you would like more details.
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Wed, Feb. 11, 2004
No trip? So sue us – and they did
By Tom Ferrick Jr., Inquirer Columnist
Does anyone have a contact number for the folks at Ripley’s Believe It or Not? I have an item for them. It could run under the headline: “Students Sue College for Failing To Deliver the Goods – and Win”. Such victories are as rare as hen’s teeth. And to think it happened in Philadelphia, at our very own Drexel University.
The case involves a group of Drexel MBA students who sued the school for breach of contract after it canceled a planned class trip to China. The students wanted Drexel to refund part of their $39,500 tuition. The university said, in so many words: Go jump in a lake. Thus was born their first class project: 18 of the 24 students chipped in $250 each, hired a lawyer, and sued Drexel in Common Pleas Court.
Much to the surprise and dismay of the university, a judge ruled in the students’ favor two weeks ago. Alan Bredt, attorney for the students, said he was ready to negotiate with the school over the refund. The school says it will appeal.
Let’s go to the sweeping overview. My search for similar cases came up empty. It turns out colleges are like casinos. They don’t do refunds for unhappy customers. This was confirmed by Virginia Tee, editor of the Campus Legal Adviser, a publication that tracks lawsuits against colleges and universities. She said that while it was not uncommon for students to sue a school for breach of contract, it was very unusual for them to win such cases.
Now for the gritty particulars. This class was the first for Drexel’s new one-year MBA program, designed as a mid-career move. Class member Andrew Green said that the students were supposed to take a 12-day trip to China, meet with officials of international firms doing business there, and do reports upon their return. The trip was included in the tuition cost. “The trip was one of the selling points for the program for a lot of people,” Green said. It was supposed to happen last March. At the last minute, because of concerns about the outbreak of SARS in Asia, Drexel canceled it.
While the MBAs didn’t argue about the reason for cancellation, they were unhappy with how it was handled. Green said that when the students heard rumors the trip might be scrapped, they went to George P. Tsetsekos, dean of the business college, and asked to be included in the decision-making process. He said they would be. They weren’t. Green said that after the trip was canceled, several students asked if they could go on their own – at their own risk. They were told no.
No trip, no refund
Several students asked if the school could arrange another trip to, say, Montreal or New York or Europe. The school said it would look into it. There was no trip. Instead, Drexel offered a weekend seminar on international business at a Philly hotel, Chinese meal included. “We basically got the shaft,” Green said.
I asked Green: What was the moment when the class decided to sue? He said: I guess it was the moment Drexel picked to announce cancellation of the trip – at a gathering scheduled as a send-off party for the trip. It was Chinese-themed. They had Chinese beer and Chinese hats and Chinese food for the students. In walked school officials, who said there would be no China trip.
Tsetsekos didn’t make friends at a subsequent meeting with the students when, according to student Ed Ciemniecki, his answer to all questions and suggestions was: “No, no and no.” “We thought we were customers,” said Al Hinkey, one of the MBAs. “I guess they thought of us as students.”
Drexel was reluctant to discuss the incident but did offer a statement from vice president Philip Terranova, which I herewith excerpt: “The trial court erroneously granted the plaintiff’s motion for judgment… . The decision is contrary to established precedent… . Drexel will appeal the court’s final decision to the Superior Court, which we confidently believe will reverse the decision of the trial court.”