This morning I found that someone had posted a friend’s complaint in one of my Facebook forums:
I wasn’t entirely sure what the New Saint Thomas Institute was.
It turns out that the New Saint Thomas Institute is run by Doctor Taylor Marshall. Marshall is a Catholic professor who’s been both to the Vatican and on EWTN, and he now has an online subscription service for video theology lessons. Twelve months of 30-minute video lessons gets you a nice certificate and the promise of familiarity with the Summa Theologiae. Correspondence lessons in theology and Thomistic philosophy, in other words, and not all that expensive considering. Might be a nice use of twenty to fifty dollars a month.
The institute’s motto is “Non alligabis os bovis,” or “Thou shalt not muzzle an ox,” which is a reference to Corinthians and also a Thomistic in-joke–Saint Thomas was known as “the dumb ox.”
One of the reasons Dr. Marshall lists for subscribing to his institute is “access to me,” and the other is “Ridiculously low tuition,” which doesn’t sound like a sterling guarantee of quality. He boasts that a monthly “charter membership” is “less than five (5) pumpkin spice lattes per month! Our general tuition will soon rise to $40, but as a Charter Member, you’ll be set at $25.(We’re also taking $5 off your first month: $20! – less than four (4) Pumpkin Spice Lattes!)”
I have never liked pumpkin spice lattes. Also, I am obscenely over-educated, yet I’ve never once heard a professor sound so much like a used car salesman. My professors were all very respectable academics, and generally clueless about money and the cost of lattes. They drank seltzer water on the job.
Worse, these theological lattes Dr. Marshall is hawking do not seem to be something you can opt out of once you’ve started. It seems that the New Saint Thomas Institute is harder to unsubscribe from than Comcast.
On the very page where Dr. Marshall makes the remark about five lattes per month, he boasts that his “institute” will give a full refund to anyone who is unsatisfied in the first twenty-one days. I certainly wish conventional colleges did the same thing. He states that, though he offers yearly tuition rates, the usual rates are monthly “like a subscription.” He also explains what will happen if you unsubscribe, thus implying that unsubscribing IS a possibility.
However, the complaints on his facebook page tell a different story.
It’s not just the complaint I’ve already mentioned. The comments are full of disgruntled customers who can’t figure out why they were never refunded or allowed to unsubscribe, and why unauthorized charges appeared on their credit cards.
One of those complaints is from July. Has Doctor Taylor Marshall been ignoring his customer service for six months? This is a subscription theology lesson service. Of all the places in the world you’d expect to find honest business practices, this is it.
One begins to wonder if “Nons alligabis os bovis” is also an admission that the New Saint Thomas Institute will just keep force-feeding four (4) or five (5) pumpkin spice lattes to that poor ox and charging him for the privilege until he dies.
I still trust this is all some kind of mistake. Professors are notoriously absentminded; maybe Doctor Marshall never checks his email. But I strongly urge the good professor to contact his disgruntled “students” and make restitution immediately. Let us remember the words of his institute’s patron, the Angelic Doctor Saint Thomas Aquinas: “If anyone consider what is meant by theft, he will find that it is sinful on two counts. First, because of its opposition to justice, which gives to each one what is his, so that for this reason theft is contrary to justice, through being a taking of what belongs to another. Secondly, because of the guile or fraud committed by the thief, by laying hands on another’s property secretly and cunningly. Wherefore it is evident that every theft is a sin.”
Surely Doctor Marshall did not mean to steal. But now that his attention has been drawn to his repeated mistakes, persevering in them would become theft indeed.
I also strongly recommend that my theologically-inclined readers just read the Summa Theologiae on their own until this situation is worked out. You can get a copy for way cheaper than a monthly subscription to a dubious “institute.”
(first image via Pixabay)