NoteUtopia.com, a start up social network site in which students post, download, and sell class notes, has caught the attention of California State University’s Chancellors Office – in a bad way. According to an article released today by Golden Gate [X]press, CSU sent a cease-and-desist letter on September 21, claiming that the site violated California and CSU educational codes. The company denies that there are any legal violations inherent in their site.
NoteUtopia lets students join and form discussion groups, post questions to classes, live chat with each other, receive feedback from professors and, most importantly, buy and sell class notes and materials. The company keeps 40 percent of the sale.
The cease-and-desist letter asked the company to stop promoting to CSU students and to prominently display the information that CSU students are putting themselves at risk by using the service. While the company initially accepted the cease-and-desist, they don’t believe CSU is right are not ready to back down just yet.
The relevant California and CSU education codes prohibit students from selling any “contemporaneous recording”, including hand written or typed notes. Students caught selling class notes are subject to disciplinary action. Chancellor’s Office associate director Ray Murrillo warns that if students partake in this or similar online services “the students can be subject to sanctions, suspension, all the way up to expulsion from the University,” said Murillo.
NoteUtopia’s Founder and President, Ryan Stevens, 22 and fresh out of Sacramento State, thinks that class notes should be viewed more like movie reviews. “If a student is taking notes and writing it down in their own words, that’s their work,” said Stevens.
SF State denied the company’s request to promote on campus. Dr. Penny Saffold, SF State’s VP of University Affairs, likes the idea of an online student community but dislikes the part where students sell each other information. “When you add the element of money to it, it takes it to a whole other realm, because now all I’m doing is buying something from you,” said Saffold. “It changes the nature of student interaction altogether.”
The site is now popular at Sacramento and Chico CSU campuses and the NoteUtopia staff has been actively promoting at other CSU’s across the state, hoping to expand to a statewide user base. While the cease-and-desist letter puts a bit of a damper on the plan for now, the attention the site has gotten from the drama has more than tripled the amount of visits to the site. Stevens says “If anything, the letter did a lot of good for us.”