Rejected from Sotheby's art school, woman seeks refund

James A. Cohen in News & Insight, April 20, 2011

Media Source

by Jennifer Golson of Reuters Legal

NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters Legal) - A woman whose dreams of a career in the art business were cut short when she flunked out of school is suing for a refund of $43,940 in tuition and other damages.

Amy Poliakoff said the Sotheby's Institute of Art denied her a fair hearing when it threw her out, according to a complaint filed Friday in New York Supreme Court. She also wants the school to expunge her academic record.

Jan Rothschild, a spokeswoman for the school, declined to comment on the case. The school, owned by the private investment firm Cambridge Information Group, is not part of the Sotheby's auction house. Nonetheless, the auction house provides some instructors and hires some graduates, Rothschild said.

Poliakoff enrolled in September and received no negative comments until a letter from the school dated Jan. 19 said her "acadamic dismissal" was effective immediately, according to her lawsuit.

A review hearing was scheduled for Feb. 4, which Poliakoff asked to postpone, the lawsuit said. Instead of granting a new date, the school sent a letter dated Feb. 9 saying an academic committee had reviewed and denied her appeal.

"Defendants intentionally and fraudulently failed to meet with plaintiff and plaintiff's attorney and to hold a proper appeal hearing," the lawsuit said. The school deprived Poliakoff of her right to due process and her rights as outlined in the said student handbook, it said.

Poliakoff would like to return to the school, but officials have created an environment that is so toxic that it may be impossible, said Eric Gottfried, a partner with Lefkowicz & Gottfried, which is representing her.

Lawsuits like Poliakoff's are often based on a perception that there is a guarantee of a degree and a job at the end of the program, said Andrew Rothman, senior assistant dean for student affairs at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, New Jersey. But students "are actually consuming teaching resources and school resources, and presumably learning while they are here," he added.

A majority of students don't turn to the courts, said James Cohen a professor at the Fordham University School of Law in New York. "Indeed, courts traditionally refrain from attempting to second-guess school administrators," he said.

The case is Poliakoff v. Sotheby's Institute of Art et al, New York Supreme Court, No. 104597-2011.