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February, 2010:

Demanding My Money Back

 

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I think I’ve established that I expect a high value for my tuition.  This past week, I got to confront the problem head on when a professor was very late to class.  He was apologetic and delivered a shortened version of his usually awesome lecture.  While I was waiting for him to arrive, I started calculating what his tardiness was costing me and I decided to do something about it.  I sent the dean of the law school a letter demanding my money back:

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Dear Dean Berman:

The College of Law has committed a substantial breach of our contract.  The letter is to inform you of the expected remedy.

On January 31, 2008, I received my acceptance letter to ASU Law School.  The school extended me the offer to pay tuition and fees in exchange for the opportunity to attend classes.  The terms of our agreement included adhering to the ABA’s rules of law students and the law school’s honor code, maintaining a minimal GPA, and making biannual payments to the school.  If I completed these requirements, I would be awarded a J.D. degree in May 2011.  I accepted your offer and have performed my requirements diligently since August 2008.

For spring semester 2010, the school continued our contract by allowing me to continue to take classes in exchange for $10,618.05 in tuition and fees.  Scholarships paid $750 of my financial obligation, leaving me with the $9868.05 balance, which I paid on January 14, 2010 with an electronic check.  This check pre-paid for the classes I am currently taking.

I am registered for 14 credits this semester, which translates to $704.85 per credit.  My three-credit Intellectual Property course that is scheduled to meet 26 times during the semester, for 85 minutes per session has a value of $2114.58 for the course, $81.33 per class session, or 95.7 cents per minute. 

Paying $81 for an 85-minute lecture is a significant amount of money, and I demand a high value for my money.  Professor Douglas Sylvester teaches Intellectual Property and usually delivers an $81 value in each class with his dynamic style.  However, on Tuesday, February 16, 2010, he was 37 minutes late for class.  I appreciated his apology for his tardiness, but this does not negate the fact that ASU Law School did not fulfill its obligation to me that day.  Therefore, I am entitled to recoup $35.40 of my spring semester payment….

Sincerely,
Ruth Carter, LPC
Class of 2011

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I thought it was hilarious to demand my money back.  Thirty-five dollars isn’t much to some people, but that’s months’ worth of ramen to a college kid. 

I was a little surprised when I got a call from Berman yesterday wanting to talk about my letter.  He basically took my fun away and said I could either (1) have a 37-minute tutorial with Sylvester or (2) file a law suit against ASU, but I wasn’t getting my money back because “it doesn’t work that way.” 

Even though things didn’t work out the way I hoped, I followed my rule: You can’t bitch about something unless you’re willing to do something about it. 

Mission accomplished.

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Lessons From Captain Phil Harris (1956-2010)

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The adventurers of the world lost a friend and colleague last week with the untimely death of Captain Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie.  We got to know him through Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.  I have a deep respect for all the fishermen up in Alaska.  They work long hours in the sub-freezing cold and perform a job that could literally kill them. I particularly enjoyed Phil because of his honesty and his heart.

There’s a proverb at Dutch Harbor: “Live for today. Tomorrow may never come.”  Captain Phil is proof of that.  The passion with which he lived his life inspired me to write a top five list of the lessons we can learn from Phil’s zealous but too-short life.

#5  Rock On With Your Quirky Self.
Captain Phil was a superstitious man.  He never left the harbor on a Friday.  He blew up his main engine twice when he tried to leave on a Friday.  He also wouldn’t shave while he was fishing, claiming it was bad luck.

Captain Phil also had a theory about how to find the crab: He looked for fart bubbles.  He said that crabs are “farting little machines.”  His technique was look for “fart bubbles” and a noxious stench in the air.  Apparently it worked.

#4  Protect Your Crew.
Captain Phil was extremely protective of his crew, especially his two sons.  During Season Four, his health was potentially in jeopardy.  He was literally coughing up blood, yet he kept fishing for days before seeking medical attention.  Although he allowed the camera crew to film his symptoms, he wouldn’t let his crew or kids know how badly he was doing.  It’s well known that crew members don’t pick their boat, they pick the captain.  They literally trust their captain with their lives.  You could tell how devoted his crew was to him.  It was a direct result of how devoted he was to them.

#3  Look Out For The Little Guy.
During Season 5, a baby-faced cameraman named Josh was assigned to the Cornelia Marie.  Captain Phil nicknames him “Mouse” because he looked like he was about 14 years old and weighed about 120 pounds.  Captain Phil said, “He’s as green as they come, and he will get hurt.”  He kept an eye on Mouse to make sure he didn’t get himself killed.  Mouse was seasick for his entire tour of duty.  During one of their off loads at Dutch Harbor, Captain Phil had a local doctor come to the boat to make sure Mouse had the medication he needed.

#2  Give Credit Where It’s Due.
Despite being seasick for four months and loosing nine pounds on the Cornelia Marie, Mouse never stopped saying “This is still my dream job” and “The Bering Sea is not going to get me down.”  Captain Phil said, “I’ve never met anybody who’s got as much heart as he does.”

#1  Do What You Love.
Captain Phil Harris did what he loved.  It appears that crab fishing in the Bering Sea is a brutal life offset by laughter.  Alaskan fishermen can be wealthy, but it’s not about the money.  They do it because they love it.  Captain Phil said, “You gotta be a little bit twisted to do this job.”  He said he “wouldn’t want to do a different job.”

Thank you Captain Phil for showing us what means to live adventurously and with integrity.
Happy Hunting.

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Starting Over – Designing Society From Scratch

John Rawls had brilliant ideas about justice and fairness.  He said to pretend that you can design the rules for society, which you will be a part of, but you don’t know who you are.  You don’t know anything about your race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or any other defining characteristics. What rules will you implement to create a well-ordered society?

  •  What are our fundamental rights?
  • Will everyone be equal?
  • Will we have marriage?
  • Can you marry more than one person?
  • What will our governmental structure be?  How will we decide who’s in charge?
  • What services will the government provide?
  • If education is provided, for how many years can you attend school for “free?”
  • If you don’t use a government-provided service, like putting your kids in private school instead of public, do you have to pay for others to have the government service?
  • Will the government pay for health care?  What services will be included?  Can you opt-out and get private insurance?  Will we even have insurance?
  • How will we pay taxes?  Will it be a system where some people pay a higher percentage than others or will it be more like Fair Tax?
  • Will abortion be legal?  
  • Will we still have social security?  What about welfare? 
  • Will you have to get a license before you’re allowed to have children?
  • What behaviors constitute crimes?  How will criminals be punished?
  • What professions will make the most money?  Will we even have money?
  • What will it take to be considered famous?

I wonder how I’d feel about the world if I wasn’t me or if I didn’t have my upbringing.  I tend to think that the government should stay out of people’s lives and that people should save money on their taxes by paying for things themselves.  I think no matter who I am, having the ability to make choices in my life is critical.  What do you think?

Half Marathon Recap Part II – The Legal Side

When I signed up for the half marathon back in August, I knew my fee was non-refundable.  I have no recollection if I checked a box for a waiver at that time. 

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Fast forward to January – I got my confirmation email with a link to get my “Packet Pickup Confirmation Sheet.”  I needed to sign and turn it in at the pre-race health expo to get my race number and microchip.  On this form was a “Release and Waiver of Liability Agreement” that was over three inches of small print.  It seems pretty sneaky for the organizers to get us to pay our money and then tell us what we had to agree to in order to participate. 

Here’s what the waiver said:
(You/your = the runner; We/us/our = the organizers)

  • Neither you nor your heirs can sue the organizers, sponsors, or municipalities for any reason related to the race.
  • You can’t sue if you’re injured or die during the race, even if we’re negligent.
  • We can use your name and photo without paying you for it.
  • If the event is cancelled or delayed, we won’t give you a refund.
  • You will pay all expenses for your medical care related to doing the race.

Past research of Arizona case law taught me that signing a waiver that releases an entity from liability, even if that entity is negligent, will be upheld by the court.  So basically, if you sign the waiver and get hurt, you can’t sue and win.  All the runners I talked to before the race said that they signed the waiver without reading it.  However, I remembered something from contract law that said if you cross out the terms of the contract that you don’t like before you sign it, that it removes those terms from the agreement.  I went through the waiver and crossed out the clause that released them from liability for their negligence and the clause that said I’m responsible for all race related medical expenses.  I used a bright royal blue ballpoint pen to cross out the clauses so they couldn’t claim that my marks could be mistaken for a bad print job from my printer. 

When I went to the pre-race expo, I brought clean copy of the waiver in case they didn’t accept my version of the agreement.  It ends up I didn’t need it.  The volunteer accepted my agreement without any questions. 

I emailed my personal injury attorney friend and he said what I did would probably hold up in court.  Looking back, I’m surprised that the agreement didn’t have a clause that said that participants couldn’t alter the waiver before signing it or that the organizers didn’t tell the expo volunteers not to accept waivers that had been altered.

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