Former students call NYU’s Singapore art school an ‘educational scam’

SINGAPORE: Three former Tisch Asia students have filed a class action lawsuit against New York University (NYU) over its now-defunct Singapore art school, saying that they were victims of an “educational scam”.

According to court papers filed in New York last month, Ms Anna Basso, Ms Amy Hartman and Mr Jaime Villa Ruiz represented others to file suit against the US university over seven complaints including breach of contract and false advertising.

teshasia-yourvoice-asiaThey said from the time the school was opened in 2007 until it announced its closure in 2012, NYU had marketed Tisch Asia as a programme offering identical graduate degree and professional training as its renowned Tisch School of the Arts in New York.

However, students who enrolled in Tisch Asia expecting to receive the same quality of education and opportunities as those in the New York campus, and paid the same amount of tuition fees, were left disappointed.

“Except for the cost of tuition, Tisch Asia never lived up to the level of Tisch New York,” court documents said. “Tisch Asia students were not provided with the same quality of instruction and equipment as their New York counterparts; did not have an opportunity to gain the same or even comparable internships, part-time jobs in the industry or other resume building opportunities; enter into certain important artistic contests and festivals or apply for certain grants available to New York students.”

They added that despite NYU’s assurance that Tisch Asia would be in operation for “a long time” and “create a legacy”, the school was closed after less than eight years.

“When NYU decided to close Tisch Asia in 2012, it became abundantly clear to Tisch Asia students that they fell victim to an educational scam, that their programme would never create a legacy, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars they paid for education of far lower quality than provided by Tisch New York were not even remotely worth it,” the former students said.

The three plaintiffs said they had paid between about US$100,000 and US$165,000 for their stints at Tisch Asia.

Among the examples given on the quality of faculty and teaching, the plaintiffs said cinematography professors showed students outdated lighting techniques, and Mr Villa Ruiz said one of his professors “did not know how to use a modern camera”.

They added that in 2011, Dramatic Writing students were promised a class taught by Singapore playwright Haresh Sharma. “However, to the students’ great disappointment, Mr Sharma was not offered the opportunity at Tisch Asia because of a financial cut. The class instead was taught by a previous year Tisch Asia graduate.”

An NYU representative, Mr John Beckham, told New York Daily News in September that the suit was “wholly without merit, and we expect to prevail in court”.

“The students at Tisch Asia had the same curriculum as Tisch uses in New York,” Mr Beckman was quoted as saying. “Many Tisch Asia courses were taught by New York-based faculty and all were taught by highly qualified faculty; students had excellent facilities and equipment; and graduates received a Tisch School of the Arts degree.”

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