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Brandeis student says his professors struggled to figure out how to teach online, in latest suit over online college classes

An art student at Brandeis University this week sued the school to get a refund on his spring-semester tuition and fees because of the way classes were forced online due to Covid-19.

In his suit, filed in US District Court in Boston by a team of lawyers in three different states, the student, identified only as John Doe and a Massachusetts resident, is also seeking to become lead plaintiff in a class action that, if successful, would mean more than $5 million in damages against the Waltham school.

Doe, who, unlike a pseudonymed Harvard student, did not explain his reluctance to give his real name, cited the by now usual reasons for seeking refunds for his being forced to go online: He lost the "experiential" experience of an in-person education and access to studio space and other facilities that he paid for, as well as access to his peers, which he charges is one of the reasons he chose an in-person education to begin with.

But the suit alleges that Brandeis professors, at least the ones whose classes he was taking, were especially bad at teaching online:

Plaintiff found the transition to online learning to be disruptive and ineffective with no oversight or accountability to ensure the same quality of education as in-person instruction. For example, many courses relied heavily on presentations, class experiment participation and surveys, and debate components that were significantly hindered once the courses shifted online. One professor cancelled a week of lecture to learn how to use online platforms and did not reschedule. Another professor did not conduct any online lectures, only provided PowerPoint slides, disorganized notes, and limited assistance to students navigating course assignment guidelines. Other professors continuously revised the syllabus making it difficult for students to understand expectations and do their best work.

The complaint adds:

Defendant effectively cancelled Plaintiff’s art course after Defendant decided to revoke access to the art studios, providing students no opportunity to retrieve their work. Plaintiff could not complete the artwork he started and Defendant did not provide a feasible way for students to continue the course online. For example, Defendant did not provide any resources or support to students or art professors to facilitate an effective transition leaving students without the ability to continue art courses, or even the basic art supplies necessary to complete their artwork. Defendant has yet to provide access for Plaintiff to collect his work from the studios.

Additionally, Plaintiff was unable to access academic resources he often utilized during his time at Brandeis to supplement his studies, including the writing center, academic offices, and academic advisors. Plaintiff actively sought out these resources during the Spring 2020 semester but was provided minimal support.

PDF icon Complete complaint210.57 KB


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They mentioned that the university wouldn't let him get his artwork or access student resources? During the transition period to online in March, we had about two weeks to get our work from on campus before we moved out. They made it very clear that once we left campus, it would be TBD for when we could be allowed to return, so him not getting his artwork is on him. Everyone should've been back on campus too since we only have a February and April break, unlike the traditional spring break at other schools.

Also the academic advisors and writing center were always available online through zoom and email, even during the transition to online. I emailed both my advisor during this time and the writing center for help a research paper. If his particular advisor didn't respond or wasn't available, he could have still talked to any one of the other ones. Yeah it wasn't the same as in person, but it was still helpful.

That being said, as a broke student attending Brandeis, I would very much appreciate a partial tuition refund.

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For those who feel they didn't get what they paid for, they should be a entitled to a refund. But if they opt to disregard this semester, they should loose the credits too and be asked to retake (and pay for) the classes if they wish to graduate.

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It's a lawsuit and it will be adjudicated. Perfectly understandable why he wouldn't want his name publicized.

All these schools pulling this crap and refusing to refund, or at least partially refund, are full of caca. They want to have their (heavily government subsidized business model) cake, and eat it too. No better than the for profit corporations being bailed out over and over.

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Nothing says USA like suing for not getting your way.

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Seems like mocking someone for expecting to get what they paid for is right up there, too.

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Given the permanent reduction in wealth and education that society is inflicting on Gen Z, refunds are the least colleges and universities can do.

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Society is also inflicting a rather sharp decrease in wealth to colleges and universities. Brandeis is a relatively prestigious school so it certainly has some money saved away, but it's not Harvard, and refunding tuition would take a big piece of that away while simultaneously they're dealing with a reduction in revenue, and they still have to keep paying their own costs. (And there's various technical financial issues that endowments are in general not unrestricted funds.) And of course as a broader issue any issues that Brandeis is dealing with are much worse at many other schools.

Schools and students are both in serious need of financial relief.

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