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Sunday, February 05, 2023

UF violated state law with its Preview prices. Now, the school is facing a class action lawsuit by people angered by the high costs of orientation. 

Lisa G. Browning filed a class-action lawsuit on Friday with the Alachua County circuit court. Browning is seeking damages exceeding $25,000 due to “contracts and indebtedness” from UF’s Board of Trustees. The plaintiff requested a trial by jury, rather than a settlement. 

Preview, UF’s freshman and transfer orientation, is a mandatory introduction to the university for all students.Florida’s 2019 state statutes say orientation fees for public universities shouldn’t exceed $35, but UF has charged more for at least a decade.

Court documents list President Kent Fuchs and David Parrott, former Vice President of Student Affairs, as defendants for the case. Parrott was fired in April after officials began an investigation into Student Affairs misusing funds. The investigation brought state violations concerning Preview prices to light. 

University spokesperson Steve Orlando gave a statement to The Alligator about the case. He could not comment any further. 

“The university doesn’t comment on active litigation,” Orlando wrote in a text message. “We have not been served in this particular case.”

Documents show Browning is bringing the case on behalf of her and “all others similarly situated for the overpayment of orientation fees.” 

The court records show Browning, or the student they are representing, paid about $200 for preview in Summer 2016. It remains unclear if Browning is a current student and how many other plaintiffs are in the case. 

The office of Paul S. Rothstein, Browning’s attorney, would not release any information about the case to the media. 

Fuchs and Parrott were both summoned for statement within 20 calendar days of Friday, however, the clerk was unable to determine the party to be named on the summons. 

Incoming students have the option to “opt out” of the traditional Preview program, which includes advising, an overnight stay in a dorm, meals and UF merchandise for an extra $150. Without the traditional preview schedule, orientation costs $35 and provides students with an informational packet and advising session. 

Archived orientation pages show UF’s overall orientation prices were $90 in 2007 and between $125-200 from 2014-2018, according to the Gainesville SunFSUUCF and FAMU separate the $35 orientation fee from other expenses, but UF didn’t do so until after Spring 2019. 

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Livia Ledbetter, 22-year-old Spring 2019 UF sociology and womens’ studies graduate, was a Preview orientation leader in Summer 2018. 

Ledbetter said that the “opt-out” preview program was not well-marketed to students or their families.

She said that preview staffers only had a “slight mention,” during their semester-long program on how to handle opt-out program students.

“They made it seem like the people who chose that didn’t care about their education,” she said. “It was assumed that if you wanted the ‘real Gator’ experience, you should go to the full preview.”

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