Kusinski and Western settle: $825

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Despite being taken to court by one dissatisfied attendee, an outpouring of support for Western’s French immersion school in Trois-Pistoles, Québec, ensures it will be around for years to come.

Adam Kusinski, a fourth-year social science student, recently took Western to small-claims court over his negative experience at Trois-Pistoles.

On Nov. 2, Kusinski reached a settlement deal with the university.

According to Ann Hutchison, director of media relations for Western, the judge who adjudicated the case said virtually Kusinski’s entire claim was not something he could win in court, with the exception of travel fees.

Western agreed to pay Kusinski $600 for his travel fees, the $150 balance remaining on his administrative fees and his $75 court filing fee " a grand total of $825.

Hutchison said the settlement was made on the specific agreement that it was not an admission of liability on the part of Western.

Kusinski had sought $10,000 " the maximum amount possible in small claims court " claiming his homestay families provided poor living conditions, and that leaving the program set him back a year’s worth of tuition.

“Was I upset? Has it delayed my studies? Sure,” Kusinski said. “But I voiced my concerns and did it in the best way possible and quite frankly, I think it’s time to forget about it.”

Kusinski said he meant to improve Trois-Pistoles for future attendees, not ruin the program many students have called a life-changing experience.

“I want [Trois-Pistoles] to be around for years to come ... there’s a lot of heart in this program and I don’t want to see it disappear,” he said.

Since The Gazette’s original article on Kusinski’s situation on Oct. 31, nearly 350 students have joined the “Trois-Pistoles Program Needs Our Help!” group on Facebook to share their positive experiences.

Natalie Merner, a 2006 Western engineering grad, participated in the Trois-Pistoles summer program last year. Like Kusinski, she lived five km outside of the town and bicycled to school, yet stressed it was an amazing experience.

“I left the program with a love and appreciation of the French language and many new friends,” Merner said. “The program should not be punished for one [person’s] poor experience.”

Meghan McKelvey, a third-year international relations student at Western, was “utterly appalled” when she heard Kusinski’s claims.

McKelvey, who attended Trois-Pistoles in 2007, said Kusinski was transferred to her homestay placement. She described Kusinski as “disrespectful” and said his claims were exaggerated.

“Adam’s claim should not discourage students from participating in the Trois-Pistoles program ... [it] was one of the most valuable experiences of my life.”

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