According to a class action lawsuit filed Wednesday in Alameda County, Mills College engaged in rampant deception throughout their merger with Northeastern University. Students were repeatedly promised that Mills would stay open through the spring of 2023 and that their majors would be protected – promises that Mills College repeatedly failed to meet. Instead, students were left constantly scrambling, unsure of any aspect of their academic future.
The suit, filed jointly by two prominent civil rights law firms, Bryan Schwartz Law and Nichols Kaster, PLLP, maintains that Mills College made empty promises in entice students to continue paying to attend Mills College. Mills’ students, many of whom went to Mills College specifically because of its legacy as a social-justice oriented historically women’s college, have now been told they should simply continue their studies at Northeastern University, a large, co-ed, East Coast college – which lacks many of the academic programs that were Mills’ specialties. For example, the suit describes that Education majors are being told to join the Communications program at Northeastern University.
“Mills College is beloved by so many people in the Bay Area and beyond – it is deeply disappointing how they have treated their students over the last year-plus,” said Bryan Schwartz, proprietor of Oakland’s Bryan Schwartz Law. “We have nothing but respect for the courageous students who have stood up against these wrongs.”
“Because of Defendant’s false promises, misinformation, and misrepresentations, students like Plaintiff Cordrey and Plaintiff Varner have been put in a terrible position: either change their major or transfer to other schools that offer their desired degrees, resulting in delayed graduation dates and additional expenses,” said Matthew Helland, of Nichols Kaster, a national class action firm with offices in San Francisco. “Mills’ students are demanding to be treated fairly and for Defendant to deliver on its promises. We are suing to help get these bright students’ educational plans back on track.”
The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court.
About the Plaintiff Willa Cordrey:
Plaintiff Willa Cordrey began attending Mills College in August 2019. Ms. Cordrey was enrolled in Mills’ “4+1” program, which would have allowed her to receive her Bachelor’s degree in Education, Master’s degree in Education, and a California teaching credential, all within five years. Mills College repeatedly misled Ms. Cordrey about her ability to graduate and get her teaching credential through Mills College, before finally stating that the best they could do is allow her to receive her Bachelor’s in Communications or a similarly unrelated major through Northeastern University, with no path to receive her teaching credential. “I loved Mills, and I loved my program,” said Ms. Cordrey. “I wanted to learn how to teach at Mills, because I felt that my classes and professors were preparing me to be the kind of teacher I wanted to be. I did everything I could to complete my education at Mills. The administration had an obligation to their current students, and they have failed us.” Ms. Cordrey is in the process of finding a college to transfer to for the upcoming academic year.
About the Plaintiff Jenny Varner:
Plaintiff Jenny Varner began attending Mills College in August 2018. Ms. Varner, the daughter of a Mills alum, was ecstatic to study Art History at Mills College, with a plan to become a museum curator someday. When Mills College began going back on its word, Ms. Varner was forced to withdraw from the college she loved. Ms. Varner says, “It hasn’t been easy to stand up to a school that I have dreamed about attending for so long, but I know that all of the Mills community deserves better than this.” Ms. Varner is transferring to Lewis & Clark College beginning this summer.
About Bryan Schwartz Law
Bryan Schwartz Law (www.bryanschwartzlaw.com) is dedicated to continuing the struggle for civil rights and equality of employment opportunity and helping Americans from every background to achieve their highest career potential. The firm has recovered tens of millions of dollars in individual, class, and collective actions involving discrimination and retaliation, harassment, denied disability accommodations, whistleblower reprisal, wage and hour violations, Federal employees' rights, and severance negotiations.
About Nichols Kaster, PLLP
For more than forty-five years, Nichols Kaster (www.nka.com) has enjoyed a sterling reputation as a top employment and consumer plaintiffs’ litigation firm. With over 35 lawyers in its Minneapolis and San Francisco offices, the firm has represented hundreds of thousands of employees and consumers nationwide on a variety of legal issues arising under both state and federal laws. The National Trial Lawyers and ALM have named Nichols Kaster the Employment Rights Law Firm of The Year, and U.S. News and World Reports has named Nichols Kaster a Best Law Firm and its lawyers as Best Lawyers, consecutively since 2012. Together the National Law Journal and law.com named Nichols Kaster a top 50 firm for Elite Trial Lawyers “that are doing the most creative and substantial work on the plaintiffs side.”