Class Action Lawsuit against Cass Business School for proposed name change.

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Please read the detailed and evidenced complaints below, which are grounded in poor governance and lack of consultation by City, University of London to the detriment, upon true and accurate construction, to its students and alumni. For the avoidance of doubt, our petition in no way supports historical or contemporary misconduct by any person, and fully denounces racism.

We, the undersigned, demand that City, University of London:

1. Retain the Cass Business School name.
2. Compensate all Cass alumni and students if it does not (and in any case given the effect of its actions to date).
3. Comply in full with its legal and regulatory obligations to students along with alumni; and

Considering City’s conduct in changing the name without consultation, and our discovery of irregularities elsewhere at City (within a Decision Notice by the Information Commissioner) material to our own concerns as to governance and wider quality control, we further demand that City:

4. Undertake a governance and quality control review into its decision-making processes and compliance with regulatory and other duties, including the actions of its Audit and Risk Committee and President (the concerns complained of particularly fall within these core responsibility areas).

Direct Action from Signers

Please be sure to make the following direct requests to City to obtain information about the basis for this decision and how City handles our personal data (which may be relevant to the past and current separation of Cass):

1. A request under Freedom of Information Act 2000 (template letter below);
2. A request under Data Protection Act 2018 (template letter below).

City is obliged under law to reply in a time span of 20 working days (1) and one month (2).

City has made decisions by hiding information from us: they will not do so to prevent our lobbying for corrective action.

Background

Cass Business School is one of the world's top 15 business schools (Source: The Financial Times), however its parent university (City, University of London; “City”) has a ranking that is not congruent. 

These are two distinctly different institutions with seemingly extreme variations in rankings. Rankings play a crucial role in determining which university one should attend. The Cass brand was intentionally marketed separately to that of City, has reasonably operated as its own entity, and was expressly represented as such to prospective students. Most of us applied based on these representations and spent significant money, and countless hours, completing our studies at Cass Business School.

Our Concern: No, or No Reasonable, Stakeholder Consultation; Irrationality

By way of unilateral announcement by email on or about 6 July 2020, without any or sufficient notice or consultation to material stakeholders, City’s Council declared it has taken the decision to abandon the name Cass Business School, and rebrand it (most likely to City, University of London Business School, per their logo). City’s Council claim they are rebranding it because “some of the wealth” of Sir John Cass was derived from “links to the slave trade”.

The announcement stated: “we listened to the concerns of the City community.” This is manifestly false. We are unaware of any consultation and it appears that none of the signatories to this petition were contacted on this issue by City at any time prior. This lack of consultation is unreasonable (in a Wednesbury sense for the lawyers reading).

Not only are these assertions unparticularised, and unevidenced, the very language is obfuscatory: what is “some” and what are “links”? Serious allegations require serious discussions and consideration of competing considerations: nothing less should be expected from an organisation that purports to be a university.

City certainly had no concerns when it took the money from the Sir John Cass educational charity in 2006: indeed, it was so proud of the association that it published a commemorative book and HM The Queen opened the renamed facility.

One could, even on City’s case, make the same argument about Yale, Stanford and many others. Yet, they do not feel the need to make name changes, and certainly not in an unreasonably accelerated timespan without any, or any reasonable, consultation with all relevant stakeholders.

Our Concern: Loss of Value to Our Cass Degrees

The reason why Yale and Stanford do not randomly change their names is because of the prestige and quality of education inherent in the brand.

Cass took enormous time and effort to create such a strong marketing perception through branding: as we note above, it was on these representations that we entered a contract and paid very significant sums. For City to reverse, suddenly and precipitously, 20 years of marketing the Cass name will not only adversely affect all alumni, but take away the validity our degrees have in the external environment. To then associate us directly with the reputation, academic and otherwise, of City, University of London, an entity ranked considerably lower than Cass Business School, further diminishes our degrees. The direct and consequential losses to us all will be profound.

Simply put, we paid for a degree from Cass Business School, and the reputation associated with such, and represented to us during recruitment. If City is to move forward with a name change, which should only be made after full and proper consultation if at all — for there might be many other possibilities garnered by proper consultation — it needs to refund all tuition paid by alumni of "Cass Business School".

Our Concern: No Consideration or Proposal for Cass Students and Alumni

Notwithstanding the ponderous changes announced by fiat that adversely affect students and alumni at Cass, City fails to make any proposal to mitigate the loss of value to these individuals.

The simplistic premise is to remove the “Cass” name.

However, alumni cannot represent in good faith that we attended any entity other than “Cass Business School”: changes are not retrospective, albeit we now understand that City has previous attempted to change its own Senate Regulation 19 retrospectively (see below).  Even if some new name could be advanced without loss of value (and our position is that it reasonably could not) alumni would still have to state, “a graduate of Cass Business School now known as <Name>”.

The solution would have to be reissuance of degree certificates and transcripts, something we understand that City has declined to do so in respect of errors in a course in its Law School (see below).

City must:

1. Make particularised suggestions to mitigate any loss to alumni; and
2. Accept that it cannot act to the detriment of those to whom it represented the Cass name and, expressly or impliedly, its persistence.

Our Concern: Fraudulent Misrepresentation

Cass offers some of the most expensive degrees, similar perhaps solely to the Law School. Individuals who pay these large sums do so based upon clear expectations as to quality and, of course, rely on City’s express or implied contractual terms as to reasonable skill and care.

The UK higher education sector is subject to consumer rights legislation, which is within Consumer Rights Act 2015 in England & Wales. City is bound by this legislation, which automatically includes any representations made within the contract, and provides statutory remedies in addition to those under common law. Indeed, any ambiguity in the student contract is interpreted against City under s69 of this Act.

Imagine spending close to, or well over, $100,000 or more on a business degree, with the cost of living in London included. This does not even include the opportunity cost from the lost income while attending Cass. The year, or years, of hard work to obtain the degree are wholly ignored.

Rather, a group of “Council Members” unconvincingly state they “listened to our concerns” as they strip away our degree without any consultation whatsoever? 

City’s Council’s lack of awareness is emphasised by its own press release:

“For now, the School will simply be referred to as Our Business School while consultations about a new name are set in motion.”

More than $100,000 for a degree from a business school that is now to be known “Our Business School”; soon, one imagines, to be changed to a name with absolutely no brand recognition, or to use that of City, a university with poor reputation and, we understand, poor quality controls (see below).

City’s Council should be ashamed: it is not fit for purpose.

Our Concern: Intellectually Weak Analysis by City’s Council

Let us be clear, everyone signing this denounces racism. Racism and slavery are representations of everything wrong with this world.

City’s knee-jerk actions do not even address such concerns in regards to racism: in fact, they diminish it by trivializing the issue to one of mere change of name. To deny the past, is intellectually fallacious: we must learn from the past, something that cannot happen if it is expunged.

On City’s own expressed concerns, surely it should have refused the donation over 20 years ago? It can hardly be that conduct alleged in the 1700’s was not visible at that time, and City seems not to intend to return the money, in self-serving hypocrisy if it proceeds with its proposal. 

The City of London, and many other places, were major trading ports and hence all had some involvement with transatlantic slave trade in the 17th century. Indeed, many locations far less salubrious than London are involved in contemporary activity tantamount to slavery, such as bonded labour, a much more productive area of focus if City’s concerns are sincere. Source: www.antislavery.org

As such, City, University of London must rightly remove “City” from its name and distance itself from the Lord Mayor, Livery Companies and much else: clearly, this would be disproportionate and misguided, but such is the lack of critical analysis by City’s Council under its current leadership.

Hence, there must reasonably be another reason for the conduct of City’s Council.

Could there be a pre-existing plan to rebrand all as City, University of London?

Our Concern: Non-Compliance with UK Higher Education Regulatory Framework

City is subject to the regulatory environment for higher education institutions, including the Regulatory Framework for Higher Education published by the Office for Students, which incorporates authorities such as the UK Quality Code for Higher Education by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).

We assert that City’s actions are not compliant with this Framework, inter alia Condition B4:

“The provider must ensure that qualifications awarded to students hold their value at the point of qualification and over time, in line with sector recognised standards.” (our emphasis)

Our position is that there is no or no real value in a degree from “Our Business School” and City’s actions put it in breach of this regulatory framework.

Our Concern: Broader Governance and Quality Failures (Law School ‘LLM’ Awards)

The broad failures in governance and disregard for alumni and students that we raise in relation to our Cass degrees unhappily seem to be further evidenced by recent public records that we have found.

Decision Notice FS50887080 from ICO:

https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2020/2617816/fs50887080.pdf

Within this Decision Notice published on 5 June 2020, it is found as fact that ‘UPAC’ approval reports for a £18,500 LLM degree that City has offered from 2017/18 - 2019/20 called ‘LLM Bar Professional Training’ do not exist.

Within this Decision Notice, at [33], there are allegations that a City employee admitted “maladministration” and “cover-up”, and City is given stern advice, at [42], to “review its record keeping” and that its conduct “is not a satisfactory approach”.

Our concern is that this ‘LLM’ may not be a degree at all: we understand that City has issued transcripts, and a transcript letter, that claim to award this degree under a higher education framework (RQF and its precursor NQF last used in 2008) that cannot be used for degrees, likely making other errors given the lack of UPAC reports to which to refer.

Condition B4 of the Regulatory Framework seems to have been ignored yet again, in a slightly different way, by City for a high-cost postgraduate course and that causes us further concerns as we are in a similar position: City’s Council and governance destroys value in its poor processes.

If City conducts itself in this way to future barristers, and has such poor process and quality control, our concerns over the Cass actions are made yet more profound: City’s actions are not in the best interests of its students and alumni.

We concur with the Information Commissioner: City’s way of conducting itself is “not a satisfactory approach” and Cass alumni are not well-served by this flawed action.

We demand change.

Next Steps and Relevant Individuals at City to Contact Individually

Every individual behind this rebranding is CC'd to this petition and their valid email address will receive notifications of all key milestones. 

If you feel more comfortable reaching out to them directly, and demanding the name to remain the same or a prompt refund, their contact information is as follows:

City’s Council and President

Paul.Curran@city.ac.uk - President
Julia.Palca@city.ac.uk - Chair of Council, City, University of London
Hunada Nouss – Chair, Audit and Risk Committee of Council
William.Jordan@city.ac.uk - University Secretary, City, University of London
City’s Relevant Officers below President
David.Bolton.1@city.ac.uk - Deputy President, City, University of London
Stanton.Newman.1@city.ac.uk - Vice President, City, University of London
Zoe.Radnor@city.ac.uk - Vice President, City, University of London
Andrew.Jones.3@city.ac.uk - Vice President, City, University of London
Shima.Dallali.2@city.ac.uk - Vice President, City, University of London
Liz.Rylatt@city.ac.uk - CFO

Cass Business School                                                              

Bobby.Banerjee.1@city.ac.uk - Associate Dean, Cass Business School           

University of London Federation

Chris.Cobb@london.ac.uk - Deputy Chief Executive, University of London

Rector (Ex-Officio)

William.Russell@cityoflondon.gov.uk - Lord Mayor of the City of London

City Law School

Andrew.Stockley@city.ac.uk  - Dean, City Law School
 
Please SHARE this petition with every Cass alumni and student you know.

The specific link is:

https://www.change.org/CassBusinessSchool

Finally, we are all equal, we are Cass:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJRmQoZQ348

Thank you, 

Cass Business School Alumni & Students 

 

 

TEMPLATES
___________________________________________________________________

FOIA REQUEST TEMPLATE:

<Name>
<Address>
<Email>
 
Information Compliance Team
City, University of London
Northampton Square
London EC1V 0HB
<Date>
 
By Email to: FOI@city.ac.uk  
Re: Request under Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)
To whom it may concern:

I am writing to request various information to which I am entitled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). In the requests below “City” refers to City, University of London.

Information Requested
Please send me[, for the period <X> to <Y>]:
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2.     B
3.     C
4.     D
Means of Provision
I would like the above information to be provided to me by electronic copy to my email <Email>.

Pre-emption of Queries

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Next Steps

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I reserve my rights to make additional inquiries under FOIA to pursue any train of inquiry that is apparent after your response to this request.

Yours truly, 

<Signature>
<Name>

__________________________________________________________________

DSAR REQUEST TEMPLATE

<Your Address>
Information Rights Unit
City, University of London
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London EC1V 0HB
<Date>

BY EMAIL ONLY: dataprotection@city.ac.uk; dpo@city.ac.uk

To whom it may concern:

Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

City, University of London
Data Protection Registration Number: Z8947127

I am writing to make a data subject access request pursuant to Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018.

I understand that City, University of London, its officers, employees, agents and affiliates (collectively “City”) hold and process data about me.

SCOPE OF MY REQUEST  

To help you comply with the request, you should know that it is likely that personal data is held relating to my  study for the <Degree>  with  <School>  (the  “School”), a component school of City. These data relate to academic year <X/Y>.

These data are likely to encompass the period from <X> until <Y> but may extend prior to and after that date.  

In addition to standard records and email correspondence, they include inter alia:

· Item 1
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However, my request is not solely for data from this source: this is a general request that relates to any and all personal data processed by or on behalf of City within the specified date range.

LOCATING THE PERSONAL DATA  

I envisage that a number of individuals may process personal data in connection with the above. Some of the data processed will be held in the form of sent and received emails and word-processed documents. Presumably these can be identified through the use of search tools.

Please ask the individuals identified in your initial search whether any of them is aware of others who are likely to have exchanged emails containing personal data relating to me. If so, please let me know who those others are and search the emails of anyone identified as a recipient by them.

VARIANT EXPRESSIONS OF MY NAME AND OTHER LABELS

My full name is spelled “<My Name>” However, I have found people using a number of variant spellings including “<XX>” or abbreviations such as “<X>” or “<Y>”. I would like you to search for each of these variations, particularly when searching email records and other word-processed documents.

My personal data may also be reference by numerical index, for example student number: the relevant numbers are <City 4-digit Student Number> (in relation to <School>) and <9-digit City Student ID> in relation to City more broadly. Please be sure to search under these labels and any others that exist (it is for you to locate them).

INFORMATION TO SUPPLY  

Once you have identified personal data within the scope of this request, please provide a copy of the information constituting personal data and also:

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I look forward to hearing from you in relation to the above within one month of the date of this letter.

Yours truly,

<Requester>

Cc: Dr Emma White, Data Protection Officer (dpo@city.ac.uk)

Enc:
· Copy of Identification