University of the Arts Slapped With Class Action Lawsuit

Meanwhile, the school's president has resigned and Temple may have a rescue plan.

Two images showing the University of the Arts, which is closing, and the first page of a class action lawsuit just filed against the University of the Arts

Left: A University of the Arts building in Philadelphia (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/CC) | Right: The first page of a class action lawsuit just filed against the University of the Arts over its closing (image via federal court)

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UPDATE 6/7/2024: The University of the Arts now faces three federal class action lawsuits. Employees of the University of the Arts filed two of those suits. And the latest lawsuit was filed by students, who accuse the school of fraud and breach of contract. You can read the full student lawsuit here.

University of the Arts Slapped with Class Action Lawsuit Over Closure

Well, that didn’t take long. Just days after the shocking news that the University of the Arts was suddenly closing, the school finds itself the defendant in a class action lawsuit over the decision.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Philadelphia’s federal court by nine University of the Arts employees, including professors, department directors and a librarian.

The lawsuit accuses the school of violating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act), a 1988 law designed to protect employees by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide at least 60 days notice to employees of any major closing or mass layoffs. The University of the Arts clearly didn’t do that.

The plaintiffs also accuse the University of the Arts of running afoul of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law. The workers allege that the University of the Arts has not paid them for some of the hours they worked and for unused vacation time.

“This situation reflects a complete failure of leadership,” says Eric Lechtzin, the attorney representing the plaintiffs. “It is incomprehensible how they could announce the closing of the university within seven days, with no prior warning to anyone. In fact, I’ve heard from people who recently left tenured positions at other schools to join the faculty and staff of UArts, only to learn mere weeks or months into their new position that UArts is closing.”

Lechtzin added that he’s also heard from students, parents of students, and major donors, all of whom are also considering legal action.

Philly Mag was unable to reach anyone at the University of the Arts for comment. More on the lawsuit as it develops.

More On the University of the Arts

It’s hard to believe all this University of the Arts chaos just began on Friday. The most recent developments, other than the lawsuit? The president of the University of the Arts just resigned. And it sounds like Temple has a plan to rescue the school via a merger.

About the Free Library Author Events

There’s been lots of confusion out there over the author events at the Free Library. On Monday, an email and social media posts from Free Library author events accounts stated that all future author events at the Free Library had been canceled. On the heels of the UArts implosion, the sinking feeling of an arts apocalypse in Philadelphia began setting in. But that email and those social media posts were soon followed by other messages stating that the Free Library author events had not been canceled. Confusion set in.

So what is going on here? Well, according to a statement on Tuesday night from Jeffry Benoliel, chairman of the board of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, the author events staff unexpectedly resigned on Monday and one of those employees went rogue and blasted out the misinformation about the author events. The staffers told the Inquirer they resigned due to a “heartbreaking” work culture.

Here’s more from Benoliel’s statement:

The departure of Author Event series staff was unfortunate. And some of you may ask why. We have not had exit interviews with any of them, but based on prior conversations there was a fundamental disagreement on the strategic direction chosen by the Board for the Foundation. This involved the Foundation untangling itself from the day-to-day operations of the Free Library of Philadelphia (Library) now that it was fully staffed, bringing on new leadership at the Foundation to better execute on our philanthropic mission and finally, aligning cost structure with current revenue generation in support of the many programs the Foundation funds.

Speaking of author events at the Free Library, former Philly Mag editor-in-chief Tom McGrath has one on June 25th for his new book Triumph of the Yuppies: America, the Eighties, and the Creation of an Unequal Nation. Something tells me there’s at least one chapter about Thirtysomething. You can read a Philly-focused excerpt from the book here.

By the Numbers

$100 million: What Mayor Cherelle Parker plans to spend on a new drug treatment facility and shelter on State Road in Northeast Philly. The working name for the place is Riverview Wellness Village, which sounds a lot nicer than it’s likely to be. The center will be located right next door to the complex of four jails on State Road.

45.5: Percentage of the vote received by Cape May hotelier Curtis Bashaw in the Republican primary for United States Senate in New Jersey yesterday. (If you’ve ever stayed at Congress Hall, The Virginia, or The Sandpiper in Cape May — that’s him.) Bashaw handily defeated the three other candidates, most prominently the one endorsed by Donald Trump. Bashaw will face down the Democratic winner, Andy Kim, in November.

2: Philly bars that landed on Esquire‘s just-released list of the Best Bars in America. Those bars are Poison Heart and Post Haste. If you’re saying, “Never heard of them,” you need to stay on top of our Best New Bars in Philly reports.

Local Talent

Low Cut Connie frontman and pianist Adam Weiner just got his own show on WXPN. “The Connie Club” debuted on Saturday at 5 p.m. and is scheduled to air for 10 weeks. His guest on the first episode was Frankie Valli. (You can listen here.) Upcoming: Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters and Nancy Wilson from Heart. You can also attend live tapings for the show at Ardmore Music Hall. I recently caught up with Weiner to hear what it was like growing up with the last name Weiner. Here’s what he had to say about that and more.