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.