College Contracts with Students

19 Dec

Did you ever consider the contracts involved in higher education?  Oh, I’m not talking about those between the institution and its employees but rather between the institution and our students.

Clearly, when a student enrolls, pays tuition, and attends class there is a contractual relationship with the university and the terms of this contract may be found in the handbook, catalog, and other guidelines supplied by the university.  Bleicher v. Univ. of Cincinnati College of Med., 78 Ohio App.3d 302 (10th Dist. 1992).  I suspect that those other guidelines supplied by the university could include class syllabi.

Syllabi contains plenty of information:

syllabi

Perhaps a statement regarding whether the course is part of the Transfer Assurance Guide or Transfer Module programs will be included.

It’s all good information.

It’s a great roadmap for the course.

There’s an expectation that the student will obey the terms.  Is the instructor willing to adhere to these terms as well?

Many instructors began an academic term in academic bliss.  The expectation exists that all events as laid out in the syllabus will occur without problem or conflict.  But then life intervenes:

  • Illness
  • Sitter problems
  • Transportation difficulties
  • Court appearances
  • Production challenges
  • Tardiness
  • Laziness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Individual education plans (a contract modification)

How instructors respond to these events affects the enforceability of your agreement with the students.

syllabi-2

The closer the instructor stays to the letter of the syllabus the greater likelihood of strict enforcement.  As instructors sway towards greater flexibility problems occur.  It is analogous to landlord-tenant contracts that require rent to be paid by a specific date and the landlord commences to accept later and later payments only to discover that the conduct has superseded the written terms of the rental agreement.  Finkbeiner v. Lutz, 44 Ohio App.2d 223, 337 N.E.2d 655 (1st Dist. 1975).  Frankly there is even law that requires landlords to provide the tenants notice that late payments will no longer be accepted in order to return to the letter of the contract.  Lauch v. Monning, 15 Ohio App. 2d 112, 239 N.E.2d 675 (1st Dist. 1968).

I cringe when I hear faculty establishing definite due dates for assignments and then allowing late assignments throughout the term.  I have the same reaction when the teacher permits some, but not all, tests to be corrected for partial credit.  There always seems to be a return to the letter of the syllabus as the term concludes. It’s a situation simply awaiting the right set of facts.

Just think about it!

 

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