Students Demand Refund for Extension Program

A number of UCSD Extension students have filed formal grievances against the administration, claiming that the 2008 Digital Arts Center (DAC) program did not adequately prepare them for a career in Web design, as had been promised.

Students in the year-long program released a statement to administrators expressing dissatisfaction with the management of the program and demanding monetary compensation in the form of half their tuition — or $6,750 per student. Twelve of the 19 students enrolled in the DAC program signed a statement of complaint addressed to the university, and seven filed formal grievances.

According to the statement, the majority of student complaints revolved around the teaching methods of instructors Harrison Watts and John Lane. The students claim that Watts used unclear, inadequate modes of teaching and that Lane, a lead instructor and DAC faculty advisor, left town for 20 days during the quarter and sent e-mails that stated the class would review old material during this time. However, DAC student Kevin Root claimed the material was new and unfamiliar.

“The e-mails are not only insulting to our intellectual abilities, but untrue,” Root said.

Ashley Lewis, one of the students who filed a letter of grievance, claimed the student complaints negatively affected their grades.

“After my classmates and I submitted our original letter of complaint, our primary instructor was evidently so upset that he docked all of our final grades by at least one full letter,” Lewis said in her letter.

Assistant Deans of External Affairs for UCSD Extension Henry DeVries said the circumstantial causes for the class’s downfalls were unique.

“There was a change of instructors,” DeVries said. “It was not curriculum or policy which affected this class — it was an unforeseen personnel change, and in these circumstances, there are always chances for things to fall through the cracks.”

The university responded to the complaints with a formal investigation lead by Interim Register and Director of Student Services Elizabeth Silva. She addressed the complaints by offering extended opportunities free of cost to students. These offers included online classes, Saturday morning workshops and course offerings from Fall Quarter 2009 and Winter Quarter 2010.

According to DeVries, four of the seven students who filed grievances accepted the offers of extended instruction.

“We listened to the students’ concerns about their lack of training and offered them opportunities for further education,” DeVries said. “The reparations the students were offered were very fair and reasonable.”

However, Root said the offers, including online classes at Lynda.com — valued at $75 each — were both “insulting” and a “slap in the face.” He claimed the options were not equal in monetary value to the tuition paid by students for the classes, and that one of the classes offered was taught by an instructor who the students claimed had admitted that he could not teach the material adequately.

“I will be pursuing further appeals,” Root said in response to the decision. “If those do not work, I will pursue legal actions. Along the way, I will continue to speak out about the poor quality of education from the DAC program.”

Students such as Root demand monetary compensation, a motion the university has denied per the UCSD Extension Refund Policy. The policy states that students who withdraw are refunded 75 percent of the tuition if they withdraw by second week, 50 percent by third week and 25 percent by fourth week. Since the students filing the complaints did not withdraw from the class, university associates maintain that a refund is not possible.

DeVries said that although monetary compensation is unlikely due to the policy, the university is still concerned about the grievance complaints. He added that major revisions to the DAC courses are unlikely since the change of instructors was a one-time occurrence.

“Complaints are rare occurrences,” DeVries said. “This is rare, but when it happens it’s important. Our biggest concern is that students get the education they need, and we take complaints very seriously.”

Additional reporting by Angela Chen.

Readers can contact Tanja Fijalkowski at [email protected].

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