Students Sue Over Inauguration Celebration

Participants say they were misled and want their money back.


As I first reported back in January (because I happened to be having drinks at the same hotel as these college students on Inauguration Eve), some Inauguration visitors felt deceived by those organizing events. The Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference collected up to $2,900 from thousands of high school and college students for four days of lectures and events, some with high-profile politicians such as Colin Powell and Al Gore. But many students felt like they were misled by false advertising.

Caitlin Armstrong, an 18-year-old sophomore at Auburn University, came to Washington , DC expecting to see President Obama and Beyonce, one of the scheduled performers. She had received a letter earlier this year congratulating her on being “accepted to be among the thousands of students” to “witness first-hand the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.”

The letter left her with the impression that she would have tickets to the Inauguration and be invited to one of the official Inaugural Balls. The event’s website specified that the schedule included the official swearing-in ceremony.

But when she arrived, she was disappointed to discover that she had no special tickets and would have to navigate the National Mall along with the 2 million other visitors. As for the ball, she attended along with thousands of other college students, but since it wasn't one of the official ones, there was no Beyonce, nor Obama.

Now, the New York Times reports that lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit with the hope of getting some of the students' money back. The organizers of the conference, the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, says it has already provided refunds to some of the unhappy students.