How can I prove that a mistake existed on a website six months ago?
January 26, 2007 4:32 PM   Subscribe

How can I prove that a mistake existed on a website six months ago?

I so apologize if this is a double. I searched and couldn't find anything. It was kind of asked in April, but no one bit.

I'm in a small dispute with a student records department, and this small dispute is currently keeping me from getting my Master's degree that I earned.

The specifics are convoluted and obnoxious, but the crux is this: in August of 2006, there was a glaring error in the course schedule page. The error was corrected (I'm guessing) sometime in late September.

Here's the page in question. The class at the bottom of the list had only the Tuesday session listed, as opposed to Tuesday and Thursday.

I've checked the Internet Archive. Every version they have is either too old or too new. Google Cache only has the corrected version. And of course, our quaint little art school doesn't have printed schedules.

Am I missing something in how I'm searching? Is there any way, aside from Internet Archive and Google Cache, to find an old version of a page? If you find it, I'll be your best friend.
posted by roll truck roll to Computers & Internet (20 answers total)
are you saying that you were supposed to attend both sessions to get course credit and only attended the Tuesday because of this? Sorry, kinda curious of the details of how a college can deny you a degree because of a website error.
posted by Thrillhouse at 4:42 PM on January 26, 2007

No, there is no global cache of all the web pages in the world, other then deliberate efforts like the wayback machine.

You could just save the file on your hard drive, alter it, and then show it to them calming you found a saved copy on your hard drive.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 PM on January 26, 2007

The wayback machine is also known as the Internet Archive, which the question stated they used.
posted by daninnj at 4:45 PM on January 26, 2007

Best answer: Try contacting the webmaster for archived copies or getting the person responsible for the changes to admit the error? In this case I think social engineering is your friend.
posted by hindmost at 4:48 PM on January 26, 2007

Response by poster: This is why I didn't want to get into details too much. It's all very silly.

I registered for the class, but was unable to take it because it conflicted with my other classes. I went to the first session, talked to the prof, and he said don't worry about doing an add/drop form, he'd just go talk to them and get them to drop it.

He talked to them and they wouldn't let him do that. I knew none of this, and two weeks ago I get a report card in the mail with a big fat F in it.

Now I need to submit a formal proposal to have my transcript changed, including letters from everyone involved. I just got a pretty harsh email from the person I'm supposed to be submitting this transcript to, essentially saying, "You fucked up. It's not our fault. Even if you send us the proposal, we don't have to do anything."

So this is just covering my bases, I guess. I want everything to be as well-documented as possible.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:50 PM on January 26, 2007

Does the college not have a printed course schedule? It would likely contain the same info that was originally posted to the website. Even if it doesn't, I would be very surprised if anything other than the dead-tree version was considered "official."
posted by Urban Hermit at 4:53 PM on January 26, 2007

Best answer: The school may have daily/weekly/monthly backups of everything on their webserver. Check with your computer services department and see if they still have any local backups or archives. Keep in mind that they probably do not have to do anything for you, and if the information is available, someone may have to do a little digging to find it.
posted by Yorrick at 4:56 PM on January 26, 2007

Is there a grade appeal process? If the professor is on your side maybe you can convince him to give you an A (or an incomplete)
posted by ShooBoo at 5:09 PM on January 26, 2007

Best answer: It seems to me that regardless of how this works out, the College will give in because it was their staff - the professor - who told you he'd work this out and then didn't tell you that it hadn't. The profressor will probably feel guilty about this and help you out - don't alienate him or get angry with him, or he'll just let the system screw you. In which case you could take this to court, but if your college has any sense of decency, they won't let it go that far.
posted by Dasein at 5:21 PM on January 26, 2007

I work in a university and I have to say this does not look good for you. On the same website you linked, the instructions for adds/drops are clearly outlined, saying:
Instructors cannot drop or withdraw students from classes even if the student has never attended the class. It is the student's responsibility to notify the Student Records Office of any schedule changes in writing.
It sucks, but it's tough love. You may have to just own up to this one.
posted by loiseau at 5:28 PM on January 26, 2007

Best answer: I would say:
#1 DON'T be a dick about this to them (I don't know you so I don't know how nice you are). Try and make them think that they're wonderful and you need them to make this all better.

#2 Tell them you're willing to pay for the first class even though you never attended it and you'll pay for it again. A college is a business and wants more of your money. Might be the price you have to pay for a mistake that was 50% you 50% them (you should have filed that add/drop anyway). If you pay by credit card, then once all this is over you can dispute the original charge with your credit card company.

The chances of you finding evidence against them, especially coming from them is not even slim, its none. You need to work WITH them at this point, and if they're holding your career in their hands and playing dirty, then you either have to play their game or play dirtier.
posted by Thrillhouse at 5:28 PM on January 26, 2007

Thrillhouse, I don't particularly think it's playing dirty to hold students to publicly-posted academic policies.

It does seem like a perfectly reasonable policy to me, as not requiring written notice (or an authenticated login to an online student information system) would open the door to people (faculty?) deregistering people incorrectly.
posted by loiseau at 5:36 PM on January 26, 2007

You're right, its not- if thats all that happened. But according to him, a representative of the college (The professor) promised one thing and was unable to deliver, and then did not notify him. The ball is now in their court to make good on that screw-up.

The dirty part is them putting 100% of the blame on him.
posted by Thrillhouse at 5:52 PM on January 26, 2007

>Instructors cannot drop or withdraw students from classes even if the student has never attended the class. It is the student's responsibility to notify the Student Records Office of any schedule changes in writing.

That means it's the professor's fault, not the college's fault. Clearly it's the professor who didn't know the rules. He assured you he could sort out the problem and either he forgot and didn't do it, or he tried to do it and was told it wasn't possible, but didn't relay the information to you.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:05 PM on January 26, 2007

Best answer: I'm not really saying you SHOULD do this, but it is something you could do, so I wanted to share it.

Go to the page, and in the address bar of your browser paste this javascript code: javascript:document.body.contentEditable='true'; document.designMode='on'; void 0

Then edit the page however it was when it had the mistake and print it out as "proof" of what it looked like at the time. You may need to photoshop some stuff too for the website address and to backdate it.

Again, not saying you should do this. But it could be possible.
Now that I think about it. Don't do it. But you know what, the javascript code is cool so I'm keeping the answer.
posted by visual mechanic at 6:29 PM on January 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Have you tried enlisting a professor's help? I'm a professor and help my advisees with problems like that. If I tell an administrative office that it was an advising mistake (e.g., my fault), the problem usually goes away and the student fees get waived.
posted by espertus at 6:39 PM on January 26, 2007

Best answer: Then edit the page however it was when it had the mistake

This would require knowing everything else that had changed between then and now, because if you claim it's from date X and they know something about date X that you didn't, then the game's up and your entire academic career is mud.

Don't risk your livelihood over one course.
posted by mendel at 7:52 PM on January 26, 2007

Get an appointment with the dean of students and present your case rationally and calmly.

If that doesn't work do the same with the president of your institution.

If neither of those work you may want to take a look at the place you are trying to get a degree from, they may not have a good reputation in the public eye.
posted by imjosh at 7:11 PM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey, thanks a lot, everybody. Seriously, I appreciate everyone's answers.

visual mechanic gets a best answer, but only for extreme cleverness and ingenuity. Thanks to mendel and others for curing me of the idea.

I've been in touch with my dept. chair and I think we're going to get this resolved painlessly. I'm also sending a nice note to the webmaster, just in case.

By way of a sort of disclaimer, I wasn't sure if asking this question was even a good idea. I knew that if I just asked, "Hey guys, are there any more pages like Internet Archive?" I would get the same response this person got. But I also knew that if I provided a link to the actual page, I would have to delve into my story.

More importantly, I feared that it would make either the school of the professor look like the bad guy. It's a great school, and a very notable part of the regional art scene. As for the prof, he's an artist I have nothing but respect for.

The Student Records office at this school is just like the Student Records office at any other school I've ever been involved with. And since I'm dangerously negligent about things like this, I tend to get myself in trouble with those offices a lot.

Thanks again, everybody. Having MetaFilter save my ass feels like a rite of passage into being a MeFite.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:51 PM on January 30, 2007

Response by poster: Corrected transcript arrived in the mail yesterday. Woohoo!
posted by roll truck roll at 5:31 PM on February 15, 2007

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