Former students of the now-closed Mount Ida College filed a class action lawsuit against the school on Monday and accused the institution of fraud, negligence and violating their students’ privacy.
Mount Ida, a small liberal arts school that was based in Newton, abruptly shut down in April 2018 and was in talks to merge with Lasell College, an idea that failed to come to fruition after Lasell officials did not approve it. The college sold its campus to UMass Amherst after it closed.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, describes the university’s closure as "catastrophic" and says students' educational careers have been jeopardized. Students were left with discontinued degree programs and lost credits that were unable to be transferred, according to the lawsuit.
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The lawsuit named Mount Ida, its board of trustees, two university administrators and the school’s former chief financial officer as defendants. It lists two former students and one prospective student as plaintiffs. The complaint claims the consequences could have been avoided.
"The school I trusted just tossed us all aside with no consideration as to how this would affect us," plaintiff Tristan Squeri said in the suit.
The lawsuit cites public testimony from Carmen Reiss, the former chair of the college's board of trustees, as evidence that officials concealed the true extent of the school's financial woes from accepted and incoming students.
"Did we go out and announce, 'Hello, interested students, we're teetering on the brink of insolvency, but come on in?' No, we didn't do that because we believed we had a plan that was going to mean the college was going to survive and continue into the future," Reiss said during a state Senate oversight hearing in May.
Reiss and the school's former president, Barry Brown, are among ex-administrators named in the suit. Messages left with Reiss on Monday and with a lawyer who has represented Brown were not immediately returned.
In an interview with The Boston Globe in July, Brown blamed Mount Ida's shutdown on a last-minute change of terms in the proposed merger with Lasell. He said school administrators were so confident the merger would take place they accepted a new class of students.
In addition to fraud accusations, the lawsuit accuses Mount Ida of violating the Massachusetts Right of Privacy Act and federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It states the college gave UMass Dartmouth sensitive and private information on their students’ academic data without their knowledge.
"In effect, Mount Ida sold its students, at a discount, to UMass Dartmouth, as an incentive in the land transaction," the complaint states.
Attorney General Maura Healey has also been investigating the circumstances surrounding the closure.