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Inauguration Trip Focus of Lawsuit

Students say they received no tickets, little access to events.

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A lawsuit was filed in federal court last week on behalf of more than 15,000 students who paid thousands of dollars to attend President Barack Obama’s inauguration but reportedly were left out in the cold.

The lawsuit, filed in Washington by two students, says Vienna, Va.-based Envision EMI promised middle, high school, and college students across the country special access to the inauguration, the parade, and a black-tie inaugural ball on Jan. 20.

But once the students got to Washington, it says, they had no tickets for the inauguration or the parade. And the balls they attended were not official events connected to the inauguration.

Envision, a for-profit company that reportedly brought in $40 million from the inaugural sales, has said it would refund students $1 million. But the lawsuit says that would reimburse each attendee only about $65. The students were charged $2,380 to $2,620 and also had to pay for travel to Washington, formal wear, and in some cases extra meals not included in the base cost.

The lawsuit asks that each student get a full refund and reimbursement for travel costs, along with other financial penalties to be determined by the court.

In a statement, the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, which is run by Envision, said the vast majority of students had a “worthwhile and high-value educational experience.” The statement said the company had worked to resolve “almost all” of the questions and concerns that had come to its attention.

Some students and parents have complained about the trip. Among the reports are that students sat on buses with no view of the inauguration and that others watched from their hotels on TV, that minors were dropped off and made their own way to the Mall without adult supervision, and that a college graduate from California complained the black-tie gala was nothing more than a “glorified prom night.”

Vol. 28, Issue 32, Page 5

Published in Print: May 20, 2009, as Inauguration Trip Focus of Lawsuit
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