In response to a fully documented complaint by me against Prescott College filed at both state and federal levels, the college and its attorneys have responded, not with documents, records, or letters, but with an unsubstantiated second and third-hand fraudulent narrative, false declarations, and malicious defamations that discredit and degrade me and anything I have said.
Colleges are big business and can take refuge under "education law" to avoid the consequences of actions other businesses would be punished for. Their product is vague compared to a car or bag of groceries. And the student loan is the promise of bright future. But I have sat in meetings with the former president of the University of Phoenix, the president of DeVry University, Prescott College officials, and state officials; and I have read FERPA, the Higher Learning Commission Handbook, the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education regulations. All commit to the high ideal of fiduciary duty to the student which they base on policy; but a fair policy is not the same thing as a fair policy implemented fairly. And when the accrediting body does not "review or second-guess institutional acts," when it only does a "paper review process" based on what the college submits, when the college falsely leverages that into "the rejection of his groundless claims by the HLC . . . carefully investigated and rejected," then the lie is given to their fiduciary duties. The assessment of actual fairness cannot reside in the letter or spirit of the word, but in the actions related to those words.
But you will see from the sense of impunity with which Prescott College acted, that attending college is an act of trust. My experience with Prescott College is a metaphor for the illness of academe, and the truth of the current student loan scandals lies within that metaphor. Be warned.
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In 2005, I received a BA degree from Prescott College based on a transcript that contains 40% error: classes I did not take, credit awards that are 25% to 50% of what was originally awarded in writing. State Senator Linda Gray, looking at my transcripts, called it fraud. When I appealed to the Dr. Jeanine Canty, Interim Dean, to reconcile the discrepancies, I was told to contact Mr. Terril s****. />
In breach of explicit contracts drafted under Terril s****. />
I have a fraudulent degree that I cannot use without committing fraud myself, and I have a student loan that must be paid, independent of any action the college may have committed.
Most schools accept that problems occur, and have systems in place to help. I have taken classes at 8 different universities and colleges since 1970. Problems may have occurred, but nothing went unresolved and nothing was unreasonable. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), accreditation, and the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education (ASBPPSE), state licensure and regulation, require a grievance policy and provide their own grievance procedures.
I filed a complaint with the ASBPPSE. It was fully documented with a seventy pages of letters and emails (some certified), evaluations, credit awards, etc. What I did not know, nor could I until after the ASBPPSE had dismissed my complaint for "lack of evidence," was what the college had said in response. Based on a FOIA request, the ASBPPSE made four attempts to respond, each supposedly complete. Based on the ASBPPSE August 2007 Document Record Lists, the ASBPPSE concealed or withheld over 500 pages from their investigator, Dr. John A. Nixon. They sent me original copies. They lost some 150 pages between 10.27.06 and 02.14.07. They cannot account for 10 documents that I am aware of. They found an additional 240+ pages after the investigation and dismissal, which I have never seen. (Dr. John A. Nixon received documents from the college that, according to the August Document Record List, he either concealed or destroyed; he also failed to record "about 35 minutes" of his April 12, 2007, interview with Terril s****. />
1) The college did not produce any documentsletters, emails, memoranda, notes, curricula, records, etc.relevant to my complaints; while the college produced almost 700 pages with their responses, other than 14 pages of false narrative and false declarations, the pages were 5-20 year old HLC reports, copies of policy statements from revisions several years before I became a student, etc., nothing that explained away the errors in the transcripts or the erroneous billing, nothing that substantiated their contention that they are 100% correct or that my allegations are "groundless," "false," "vindictive," malicious," "pernicious," libelous, and "vitriolic."
2) Their written responses omitted discussion or reference to any of my evidencethat is, their own letters, records, evaluations, etc.
3) Their written responses did not directly discuss my allegations or my documentation, and several allegations were ignored completely.
4) Their responses, 01.18.06, 03.30.06, 07.28.06, and 04.11-12.07 interviews, are based on a false narrative: Because I did not submit ("unwilling . . . unable . . . did not") life experience documentation, Dr. Canty rejected my Life Experience Portfolio application; because of that academic decision, I appealed to the dean, and the dean graciously made exception after exception to policy ("Later, Mr. Mendelson would see [these] accommodation[s] as breach of contract.") and I worked directly with him and Terril s****. />
5) Of the three classes not taken, the only explanation in the written responses was that "Mr. Mendelson did discuss with his core faculty the environmental literacy competency requirement and did submit work in this area although it was not grouped together in one chapter of his portfolio. [Therefore] core faculty granted credit for this work under a course entitled "Ecocriticism" (Dr. Burkhardt, 03.30.06 letter). Thhat is false: I did 3 environmental courses/chapters/projects. Terril s****. />
(In fact, all of his evaluations were glowing "I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Walt's excellent and extensive body of literary analysis and written work. . . . He has great ability to effectively inform the reader about, say environmental literature, in a way that illuminates the prospects and challenges of that form to educate readers . . . The cumulative effect of Walt's commentarydemonstrates the breadth and depth of his understanding . . . Walt has shown an understanding of the potency of poetry in analysis and in fact . . . . Cumulatively, this represents a body of work far beyond the scope that students typically produce in a Creative Writing based degree." Given Terril s****. />
6) Mr. s****. />
7) Most of Dr. Burkhardt and Mr. s****. />
8) Perhaps more powerful, word for word, were the misrepresentations made by Messrs. Michael Rooney and James Armstrong, Sacks Tierney PA, attorneys for Prescott College, hired to represent the college in my complaint. Regardless of popular attitudes towards lawyers, we all know that a lawyer's words and actions are covered by a strict code of ethics: lawyers don't lie. However:
"The college has offered over and over to repay his tuition but he has refused each time" (Rooney, 05.24.07). No offer was ever made by any one; rather Mr. Rooney said "The college will never talk with you" (Rooney, 01.22.07). "I haven't offered you anything" (Rooney, 04.27.07) "We may not have had an offer on the table to refund the sums you paid" (Rooney, 05.25.07).
"Mr. Mendelson is imputing facts and statements that never occurred. I have never drafted, reviewed, or participated in any response to the complaints that Mr. Mendelson apparently made to the US Department of Education" (Rooney, 09.10.07). However, "The College"s attorney mentioned, however, that the college would be willing to pay your student loan as a remedy to the matter [Gayle Palumbo, US DoE, 02.17.07] . . . Michael Rooney was the attorney" (Gayle Palumbo, US DoE, 09.17.07).
"I was hired to provide general business advice for Prescott College" (Rooney, 09.10.07). Given that the college seems to have used nearly every local attorney for general business, why would they go a hundred miles away for a higher priced education specialist for general business? The answer, however is "This law firm represents Prescott College with respect to a student complaint that Mr. Mendleson made with the State Board. . . I look forward to working with the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education" (Rooney, 07.25.07).
I have never seen anything [from or by the college] . . . untruthful in any way" (Rooney, 09.10.07). However, Mr. Rooney himself described how Mr. s****. />
Mr. Rooney saw, read, and heard me read (04.26.07) Dr. Burkhardt"s lie "Mr. Mendelson was unwilling or unable to submit life experience documentation," from his 1.18.06, 03.30.06, 09.28.06 responses, asserted as truthful in false declarations by Mr. s****. />
Mr. Rooney said in his 09.10.07 letter that I had talked with him several times prior to the 09.28.06 ASBPPSE Complaint Committee meeting and that I had accused the college of "theft" of art work: except I had never seen or heard of Mr. Rooney, or of Sacks Tierney P.A., until he stood up to speak at the 09.28.06 meeting and introduced himself. I never accused college of theft, nor had I discussed the art and its return with anyoneI mentioned it only once, and that was in my official complaint: "I gave the College $3000 of art workI would ask for its return."
Mr. Armstrong wrote my webhost provider on January 31 and February 20, saying my complaint had been "completely investigated . . . found entirely groundless" by the ASBPPSE: But Dr. John Nixon's investigation didnt start until some time in late March-early April, and the complaint wasnt dismissed until May 24, 2007. Did he know something?
Mr. Armstrong said in defense of these letters and his false statements, "Indeed, I have never been personally involved and have had no direct or indirect role in handling any of the disciplinary proceeding before that licensing board [ASBPPSE]" (Armstrong, 08.13.07 letter). But he wrote a 20-page letter that was part of the ASBPPSE "Investigative Report, Complaint #06-S008 Complaint Committee Meeting ( September 28, 2006)": 4 months before he said he had any direct or indirect role.
If the lawyers can violate state ethics rules, make misrepresentations to state and federal agencies in letters and emails that I have without discovery: What did they say on the phone or in meetings off the record? What else might they have written?
9) Dr. Garvey personally disclosed protected documents. My financial aid application was subjected to spot validation, requiring that I produce my IRS 2002 Tax Form 1040: I was assured by the US Dept. of Ed that my tax form was one hundred percent confidential. The ASBPPSE wrote Dr. Garvey asking for "the student's academic records only." Dr. Burkhardt, Dean, prepared the college"s 03.30.06 response, which contained all of my financial aid documentsdocuments protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The default policy is to protect documents, and the financial aid documents are specifically protected under FERPA and under college policytypically requiring a court order for release. The request went to Dr. Garvey: the financial records were disclosed; my IRS 2002 Tax From 1040 was disclosed; Dr. Garvey reviewed the response and sent it out under his signaturehe approved the release and disclosure of protected information. Dr. Burkhardt, Mr. s****. />
Dr. Garvey also asserted to the ASBPPSE as factual matters he knew were false (under his review and signature, the 03.30 response asserts I contacted Dean Walters to appeal the academic decision that never happened, when not only did I not contact him or make any appeal, I can show that Dr. Garvey, not me, contacted Dr. Walters).
10) Under FERPA, the college is obliged to offer me a document based hearing regarding academic disputes (99.20-22). They not only have never offered me such a hearing, but I have made requests for an issue by issue, document based, meeting, which the college's attorney, an education specialist, explicitly refused each time: "he college will never talk with you" (01.22.07, conversation). " haven' offered you anything"(04.26.07, email). "I told Mr. Mendelson that the college had no interest in re-opening these issues . . . in my memo dated June 5, 2007" (09.10.07 letter). As recently as 11.13.07, I asked the college's COO, Dr. Steve Corey, by certified mail, about a hearing, but he has never replied.
The college's attorney said to the ASBPPSE that my complaints did not belong in the ASBPPSE's jurisdiction, and that I should bring an action against the college in court. Of all the attorneys I contacted in six-seven months of looking, the college had conflicted out all but two, in a 20 mile radius. Of those two, one suggested I should just use my degree, "how would anyone know it's fraud?" The other said, "You're pissing up a rope. I can't help you, and if I can't help you, I wont take your money.'
Why would the college spend so much effort lying and defaming over one student's complaint that at most schools would have been resolved in a half-hour meeting? Why would its attorneys lie? If I were wrong, in part or in full, why wouldn't they meet with me and show me the proof? If I were wrong, and "they [the academic and billing problems] had been discussed ad nauseam with him before he filed his complaint with the State Board" (Rooney, 09.10.07 letter), why couldn't the college could say when even one discussion occurred and with whom; but Mr. Rooney again misrepresented fact: I met with no one, and had no discussions with anyone at or affiliated with the college over any issue raised in my complaintsunless a short email saying "you imagined higher credits" is a discussionbefore or after I filed my complaint with the ASBPPSE: not one discussion, let alone "ad nauseam" discussions, but he said this to the State Bar, and probably to the ASBPPSE and the US Department of Education.
One student and one complaint. Why spend the time and money? I think I understand why the ASBPPSE protected the college: since I first filed my complaint, the ASBPPSE's FYI pages indicates that the number of licenses issued by them for private postsecondary educational institutions has doubled, education is big money to the state. What does the college gain? Are they hiding something? FERPA protectionsalbeit willfully violated by the collegeand the structure of the Adult Degree Program itself make it impossible for me to know whether one other student has been treated like this, or if a thousand have. At the Student Orientation I attended, most of the students, were women seeking teacher certification, most had families. They cannot spend the time I have, trying to protect themselves. They must just take it.
A few weeks ago, a Prescott College student emailed me from out of state: "I have noticed that they're [sic] policies change so much and no one seems to know what's going on!! It's so frusterating! [sic] So really, your story is no surprise."
I believe that if Terril s****. />