A federal judge today gave several Boston University students, all trying to lead a class action against BU over the way it moved classes online this spring due to Covid-19, two weeks to show that they personally were harmed by the change in class assignments or have their cases tossed for good.
Technically, US District Court Judge Richard Stearns agreed with BU and dismissed the cases for "lack of standing" - because the complaints - all smushed into a single large "consolidated amended complaint" had details about how the students specifically named in the suit were harmed. But he dismissed the cases "without prejudice" and gave them two weeks to file amended complaints with those details.
All of the students argued that online learning is just inferior to in-class education and that BU broke an alleged contract with them by cancelling on-campus classes and moving everybody online as the pandemic crashed into Massachusetts in March.
Stearns said the the consolidated complaint was deficient in even proving basic facts - such as that the students named in it were actually registered for any classes at BU, whether in person or online after mid-March.
For example, although the [complaint] generally alleges that "students" received "syllabi and other documents that referenced class meeting schedules, locations, and physical attendance requirements" for the spring semester of 2020 and that "students" attended classes in person for the first half of the semester. ... it does not suggest that any of the named plaintiffs were subject to a personal attendance requirement or attended classes in person prior to March 16, 2020. Similarly, although the [complaint] cites to marketing materials which generally imply the existence of in-person instruction, it does not allege that any named plaintiff ever read these materials -- let alone that they relied on the materials in choosing to enroll at BU.
After Boston-area schools moved online, students at a number of them filed similar class-action suits seeking damages - and lawyer's fees - on behalf of tens of thousands of students.
Last month, Stearns dismissed one such suit against Northeastern, agreeing with the university that a "financial responsibility agreement" students had to sign was not a contract that required the school to offer classes in person, that the particular agreement "ties the payment of tuition to registration for courses, not to the receipt of any particular method of course instruction."