Harvard Wins Dismissal Of Lawsuit Seeking Covid-19 Tuition Refund
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Harvard University brought by three students who demanded – on behalf of themselves and other students – a partial tuition refund after Harvard moved classes online during the coronavirus pandemic.
The class action suit was filed a year ago by Abraham Barkhordar, a law student at Harvard, and two master’s degree candidates, Ella Wechsler-Matthaei in education and Sarah Zelasky in public health.
In their filing, the students claimed that it was unfair for Harvard to charge students full tuition for online classes because the “online learning option Harvard offered following the termination of its in-person services is subpar in practically every aspect: lack of facilities, lack of materials, lack of efficient classroom participation, and lack of access to faculty. Moreover, students have been deprived of the opportunity for collaborative learning and in-person dialogue, feedback, and critique. The remote learning option is in no way equivalent to the in-person education…” students expected and paid for when they decided to attend Harvard.
The lawsuit continued, “Plaintiff therefore seeks, individually and on behalf of the Class, a proportionate reimbursement of tuition and fees for the Spring 2020 Term and a similar reimbursement for any subsequent academic term conducted in online format and for which Harvard charges tuition and fees at the same level or higher as prior years.”
As reported today by Reuters, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani rejected the students’ claims, stating that they had failed to show that Harvard had contractually promised they would receive in-person instruction and access to on-campus facilities during the spring 2020 semester.
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According to a summary in Law360, Judge Talwani stated, in her 19-page opinion, “Where plaintiffs have provided virtually no direct language from the promotional and other materials, and have not alleged that Harvard charged less money for online instruction in degree-granting programs, the amended complaint fails to plausibly allege facts suggesting that Harvard would reasonably expect students to understand from such material that Harvard had promised to provide in-person instruction, even where, during a global pandemic, the governor and public health officials dictated otherwise.”