Columbia Pacific Alumni Starting Civil Suit Against CA

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Earon Kavanagh, Dec 13, 2003.

  1. For those previously involved with CPU or interested in this topic.

    CPU alumni organizers have now reached the minimum target of 100 signees to the alumni class action suit against the State of California.

    Those interested in participating in the suit (to be filed in federal court) can go to the information website and follow the links for more information.

    Thanks to the moderators for allowing this posting.
  2. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    No thanks necessary, this is a legitimate issue pertaining to DL.
  3. David Boyd

    David Boyd New Member

    It would help if we understood your claim. What Federal law did California violate?

    From what I understand, Columbia Pacific at one time was one of the better California approved schools.

    But it does not take an attorney to understand why they were closed. Look at the Columbia Pacific catalog during its last years. Compare it to California law at that time. They were closed because they didn’t comply with the law. (They didn’t meet the minimum standards established by the State.) If anyone is at fault, it’s the ownership and administration of the school - not the State of California.

    If there was any likelihood of success, I’m sure the school would have exhausted all legal remedies.
  4. AWN

    AWN New Member

    That's the way I see it too. I am one that like some of California's state approved universities but there must have been somewhere that CPU fell short of California's standards.

    I won't pretend to know all the intricacies of the matter pertaining to CPU and the State of California but as a lay person looking at what is at the surface, it would appear that there is little that could have been done or else CPU might have started doing something .

  5. The school did exhaust all state appeals possibilities over a 5 year period in California. I'm not involved with the planning of the suit so I cannot offer any response to your view. I simply provide a website with some documented history on CPU and a means for the CPU alumni groups to stay in contact and organize themselves. They have been organizing the suit for some time.

    I don't know what legal points or precedents the federal case will be based on, but I do know we now have legal counsel and are moving forward. Those bringing the suit are alumni only. There is no involvement by the school's former owners.

  6. Randy Miller

    Randy Miller New Member

    Am I to understand you want individuals to contribute to the costs of a lawsuit but you have no idea what the suit is based on?

    Maybe you could have the attorney who's accepting these dollars inform us of his arguments.
  7. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    It appeared to me (I admit to being only mildly interested though) that CPU was given every opportunity to comply. I do recall some interesting allegations though that some California officials had declared that they were going to "get" CPU or something along those lines. My guess is that the suit is claiming some unfair treatment based on some of those kind of statements?

    It will be very interesting to hear what the arguments are and to see how it turns out.
  8. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    I admit to knowing very little about CPU but I found the following statement on the referenced web site interesting:

    .....degrees which the State previously certified as equivalent to regionally accredited degrees in quality......

    I imagine most regulars on this forum would consider a CPU degree less prestigous than a RA degree.
  9. Re: Re: Columbia Pacific Alumni Starting Civil Suit Against CA

    Hi Ian:
    Here is a scan of the original statement by the California Dept. of Education. It is they who decreed CPU as equivalent to RA schools. I have never made that claim.

    Here is the relevant portion of the court transcript of the testimony of Dr. Betty Dow, former employee of the California Bureau's predecessor. Her testimony states she witnessed the higher-ups at the California Bureau's predesessor saying they would not reapprove CPU because they didn't like CPU - the statement referenced was made two years prior to failing CPU's re-approval application:

  10. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Thank you Earon for the very interesting link.

    P.S. I would consider "Equivalent to RA" to be a stronger statement that "Consistent with RA".
  11. David Boyd

    David Boyd New Member

    Re: Re: Re: Columbia Pacific Alumni Starting Civil Suit Against CA

    Minor point: I don't think the approval document refers to regional accreditation - only DOE recognized accreditation.

    Major point: Could it be that Ms. Hawkins at the CPPVE didn't think CPU would be approved because she, like anyone else who read the CPU catalog, could tell they were not in compliance with the law? I was on a CPPVE site review team of a school that was later closed (not CPU). It took a tremendous amount of hard evidence, not just the opinions of the CPPVE staff.

    I feel sorry for the CPU students and graduates, but in my opinion any lawsuit will go nowhere. You could spend your $10,000 ($100 X 100 graduates) in just establishing standing to sue.
  12. Re: Re: Re: Re: Columbia Pacific Alumni Starting Civil Suit Against CA

    I appreciate your opinion. I'm sure that our attorney will work with us to develop the basis on which the suit will go forward. Once I know for sure, if I can discuss it I certainly will.

    I doubt if this kind of suit has occured before in education and would be interested to know if it has. What I can say for sure is that alumni and students were not consulted on their experience at CPU or the value the degrees and learning had related to their vocations. Shouldn't us, as stakeholders have a voice in important matters pertaining to their degrees? Isn't that value a basis of this forum?

    The suit is going ahead as soon as the $$$ is collected from the 100 who have signed up. It will require a minimum of $7500 to retain counsel and file the matter in federal court. We realize, though, that this could go on for some years, and we are up for that.

    There are a number of CPU grads who check in here regularly, although many are silent on the forum. So I appreciate that the forum allows me to reach them in this way. We are looking forward to getting Hawkins and others on the stand under oath.
  13. DaveHayden

    DaveHayden New Member

    This situation seems vaguely similiar to what happened to a number of Savings and Loans near where I live. They were encouraged to buy up other smaller failing Savings and Loans and given assurance that they would be held to a much looser standard of deposits to loans while assimalating the failing Saving and Loans' assets.

    Shortly afterwards the FDIC(?) changed its mind and determined that the companies would have to be compliant in short period of time. Later they were taken over and their assets sold off causing the principals and share holders to loose everything.

    One point seems obvious in CPU's case; it would take a minimum of $100,000 to even think about taking this to trial. In any event good luck Earon in your effort.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 16, 2003
  14. Dave,
    And here in BC, Canada, my union had a mediated contract with the government. Our members provide needed services to the vulnerable and disenfranchised in our society (counseling, transition homes, services to mentally handicapped and elderly). The negotiation process took about 5 years. In 2002 the government made new legislation voiding the contract its own represenatives signed. We took the matter to BC Supreme Court on constitutional grounds. It is still in court. Governments need to be held accountable to.
  15. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Earon, thanks again for the information and I really appreciate your desire to keep the forum informed. I believe that it could be a very interesting case. Take care and best of luck.
  16. Thanks, Bill
    I'll do my best to keep folks informed of this emerging chapter in the lives of CPU grads.

    I think, on a process level, this kind of case is very important for consumers. I don't think this stuff happens too much with regionally accredited degrees, but unaccredited degree holders who are sincere and perhaps not informed on all the distance ed issues and degree utility could be vulnerable.

    I say to the forum "keep up the good work", even though I don't always agree with everyone.
  17. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Questions, maybe for Mr. Boyd:

    I'm not at all sure I understand where CPU graduates get their standing to sue. Their degrees are still regarded as "legal" in California, aren't they? What have they lost?

    Do CPU students have any claim against the State of California? Doubtless thay have a claim against CPU and its administration, but I don't see any right to sue the State for its quasi-judicial (and therefore immune) administrative acts.
  18. David

    David New Member

    There are at least two important matters to consider.

    One is that the California BPPVE may have unfairly lost its "approved" status back in June, 1997. Another is that CPU continued to enroll students and offer degrees after that time - that is, CPU had no legal status to offer degrees or enroll students it was appealing the BPPVE decision of June 1997.
    On January 20, 2000, CPU was ordered closed by the Marin Co. Superior Ct.

    I believe that the lawsuit will be based upon unfair treatment/evaluation of CPU by BPPVE but I am not privy to the details.

    Good overviews of the BPPVE re CPU can be found on:

    Personally, I was very satisfied with my CPU experience back in the late '70's when John Bear recommended it to me when I was ABD from RA schools.

    CPU Ph.D. '79
  19. I think the lawsuit will be based in part, on what happened to CPU from the summer of 1995 to the end of 1996. This is when CPU received what we consider as unfair treatment, which I reiterate, was carried out without any consultations with CPU graduates. CPU was a "state approved" institution at the time and the state placed certain emphasis that achievements of grads of state approved schools were not unsimilar to those of the state university system. We feel that the impact of CPU degrees on graduate careers (e.g., advancement in a job or entry into a profession) should have been considered. Thus, to what degree did the outcomes of graduates reflect the philosophy and mission of the institution?

    What occured after June 1997 has little relevance (although I'm sure it will be trotted out to show CPU was breaking the law) toour interests. CPU, acting on the advice of their attorney, defiantly stayed open after being told to close. CPU felt the failed reapproval process was a sham and put their hopes in being vindicated trough state appeals. CPU lost with the state appeal process.

    There are grounds on which to sue federally. The effects on graduate lives and careers stemming out of the 1995-1996 state process has been most debilitating. Many have done new degrees since to replace the CPU degrees. But we are itching for justice and we won't go away. As Tom Petty sings "I won't Back Down".

    We are currently 100 consumers and growing, all stakeholders to the California state approval system.

    Once the case is filed I will get the text in the filing documents and place it online. We aim to make this very public (as long as it is approved by our counsel).

  20. David Boyd

    David Boyd New Member


    I’ve never been a litigator but I see standing, as well as the statute of limitations, as major hurdles of even getting discovery started. That’s why I asked about the specific cause of action.

    If I recall, degrees awarded before the State revoked approval were expressly deemed legal, degrees awarded after this date were not.

    An Administrative Law Judge, as well as the Superior Court, agreed with the actions of the CPPVE.

    I’m sure the students feel victimized but the fact remains CPU, over many years beginning around 1993, was not in compliance with the law. If California is to critized for anything, it might be for allowing so much time to pass before taking action against CPU.

    I have known Shelia Hawkins for over 12 years. While we have not agreed on every issue, I always found her willing to listen to opposing views and, in my opinion, she has always acted in a fair and objective manner.

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