March 15, 2007 in Idaho

NIC student gets refund after protesting teacher

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
 

North Idaho College will refund the course fee paid by a student who claimed her instructor spent more time bashing Republicans than teaching.

Longtime GOP supporter Linda Cook said she’s “thrilled to death” that NIC Vice President for Instruction Barbara Hanson decided to refund the $379 she paid for English 102 with part-time instructor Jessica Bryan.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Cook said. “It wasn’t strictly about the money, but the fact that they said, ‘She deserves to get her money back’ means that they heard me.”

Cook withdrew from the English class Feb. 16, 11 days after the college’s cutoff date for course refunds, and sent a letter to Hanson asking that the course fee be refunded.

She claimed Bryan made disparaging remarks about Republicans during every class, including comments such as, “George Bush was elected president because people in this country can’t read” and “I believe in the death penalty. … First we line up everyone who can’t think, and right behind them, anyone who’s ever voted Republican.”

Bryan said two weeks ago that she did say those things but that Cook missed her point entirely, which was to encourage debate and critical thinking among her students.

The English class focuses on critical thinking and persuasive writing, and Bryan said she uses outrageous examples of opinions as a way to spark discussion among her students. Bryan could not be reached Wednesday, and her phone number was no longer listed on the college’s Web site.

She is still teaching at the college, NIC spokesman Kent Propst said, but the number of calls she has received since the refund request made headlines may have prompted the removal of her contact information from the Web site.

Propst said he doesn’t know why Hanson decided to refund Cook’s money but said refunds “are a pretty commonplace occurrence in higher education.”

On a calendar available on the school’s Web site, Feb. 5 is listed as the last day to drop a course and receive a full refund. In an e-mail response to an interview request, Hanson said she’s not “at liberty to discuss student issues.”

Cook doesn’t plan to return to NIC but said she’d recommend the college to friends.


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