Monday, August 24, 2009

Was the Recent 20% Student Fee Increase Illegal?

Was the recent 20% fee increase illegal?

That's what a recent lawsuit filed on behalf of CSU students alleges.  From the SF Chronicle:
The students' lawsuit argues that the university entered into a contract by telling them in May that they could enroll for the newly approved fee level, and then breached that contract by raising fees again in July.

The suit relies on a state appeals court ruling that struck down fee increases ordered by the University of California in 2003 after UC promised no change in student fees.
It's like if you bought a car, and after you bought it, the car dealer raises the price and tells you you can't keep the car unless you pay the extra cost.

The article also details that the lawyers for the suit also filed an injunction to immediately halt the charging of the 20% increase, but the judge refused to do it:
The judge did not issue a written ruling, but instead relayed word through a law clerk that he couldn't justify such a drastic step at this stage of the case. University lawyers said CSU would have to eliminate classes and might lay off teachers without a fee increase.

An injunction would apply only to students who hadn't already paid the higher fees. But other students would be entitled to refunds if the courts ultimately found the university's action illegal.
As you can see, the CSU is already framing this that if the courts were to rule that if the CSU Board of Trustees' decision to raise fees fees a second time was illegal, then this will result in the CSU having to eliminate classes and lay off teachers.

So basically, if this lawsuit proves that the CSU administration made an incompetent and illegal management decision, the CSU is going to make damn sure that the blame on having to lay off teachers and eliminate classes will not fall on the shoulders of the CSU Trustees, but instead on those uppity students who filed the lawsuit itself

So be prepared to hear some rhetoric from the CSU designed to pit faculty against students, instead of having responsibility placed on the real decision makers, the CSU Board of Trustees.  Now that's leadership, eh?

And finally, here's a little more detail on the precedent that was established when the UC system tried a similar move on a second fee increase.  From the Sac Bee:
Leonard, who is representing the students, said a similar situation happened at the University of California in 2003.

"They had a budget shortfall and on the eve of classes they passed fee increase after already charging students a certain price," she said.

Leonard represented UC students in that case, and they won. The Court of Appeal found that the university establishes its price when it bills students for the semester, Leonard said, and that it can't charge extra fees after billing.

"It's exactly the same situation," she said. "And we're confident the court will eventually order a refund."