Educational institutions do not escape from lawsuits, common in our litigious society, since resolution for perceived injustices are commonly pursued through the legal system. As a result, we have to be on the defensive and carefully consider how our communications are received by the reader. In every topic below there has been litigation against a college. Awareness of potential legal problems is the first step, so please read carefully.
Be cautious about anything that might be interpreted as advertising for another organization. State funds should not be used to promote any private interests. The use of another organization’s logo could in some cases be considered advertising by the post office. Check with the Publications Manager to be sure. The presence of advertising content can drastically raise postage rates.
Always, Never, All, Every, None
Be careful with any word expressing an absolute – it only takes one instance to prove it false. Good alternatives: Usually, typically, generally, almost never, rarely, most, nearly all, often, on average
Never state or imply that taking a class, earning a degree or certificate or completing any BC process will enable a student to pass a certification or licensing exam. (If you do and the student then fails the exam, he or she could bring suit.)
- Wrong: This class prepares students to take the XYZ exam. Graduates of this class will be ready for the XYZ exam.
- Right: This class helps prepare students to pass the XYZ exam. This class is intended to prepare students to take the XYZ exam.
Never state or imply that taking a class, earning a degree or certificate or completing any BC process will get a student a job. Instead, provide recent employment statistics for graduates, or quote specific students or employers (but be sure you have their written permission).
- Wrong: “leads to employment as…” Graduates of this program find work as… Students learn the skills needed to…
- Right: “intended for people considering work in field of…” “helps ready graduates to compete for jobs in…” Covers the skills needed to… Even better: 95 percent of our 2006 graduates found jobs in… “Thanks, BC! I got three job offers within a month of graduation!” Suzy Student, 2006.”
Do not write content that uses promissory language (containing or conveying a promise or assurance) such as:
- Promissory: “You’ll be qualified for a career in ________ after taking this class.”
- Not Promissory:“This class is designed to help prepare you for a career in _______.”
- Promissory: “This class gives you skills that will make you immediately employable.”
- Not Promissory: “This class gives you the opportunity to obtain skills that may help make you employable.”
State of the Art
Never use. Technology changes so rapidly that nothing is state-of-the-art by the time it reaches the classroom. (One nearby community college was sued, successfully, for promising and not delivering in this regard.)
Alternatives: Equipment of the type often found in the field… Systems and equipment typically used in… Modern equipment…
Never claim or imply that a specific course will transfer to the UW or anywhere else, unless you know for an absolute fact that it is true. The receiving institution, not BC, decides what BC credits they will accept.
Last Updated January 23, 2017