Like virtually every other institute of education, the University of Miami (UM) closed its campus last spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students were forced to wrap up their semesters from home via online classes. The university did not issue any type of refund for the change, despite the fact that students were no longer using campus facilities and enjoying other aspects of college life that their tuition was supposed to afford them.
As a result, several students have filed lawsuits against UM, adding to their list of grievances the fact that online instruction simply did not measure up to the quality of learning they received—and paid for—before the pandemic struck.b The lawsuits originated with the following plaintiffs:
- Adelaide Dixon, a junior marketing major
- Valeria Dimitryuk, recent graduate of architecture
- Julie Gold and Michael Weiss, parents of two students
The plaintiffs joined their legal actions in a class-action lawsuit against UM, in an effort to streamline the legal process and to enable other similarly affected UM students to join the class and benefit from any forthcoming settlement outcome.
Details of the Lawsuit
The complaint against UM includes excerpts from the school’s marketing literature, which touts the benefits of living on campus—and of campus life, in general, stating that it “opens a world of interaction with other students, faculty, and staff members in many social, developmental and academic activities. It’s a special time of learning and maturing; a time to be a member of the University family.”
The complaint further addresses how students have been deprived of various other benefits of on-campus learning, including:
- Hands-on learning and experimentation
- Face-to-face interaction with professors
- Extracurricular activities
- Access to campus facilities, including study rooms, libraries, laboratories, and computer labs
- Student activities, art, and culture
- Social development
- Networking and mentorship
- Student unions and governance
Students were also required to pay fees for the use of the Student Center, Wellness Center, and Health and Counseling Center, as well as fees for student activities, none of which they had access to via their remote learning situations.
Seeking What’s Fair
According to student newspaper The Miami Hurricane, the plaintiffs understand the tough decision that UM had to make about closing the campus last spring. They do not disagree with this decision; however, they do think it’s fair to be refunded some amount as compensation for products and services students did not receive.
Nor are the plaintiffs seeking to be refunded for the entire spring semester tuition, but rather “the difference for what students paid and what the university actually delivered,” one of the plaintiff’s attorneys said, according to the student paper.
To date, at least 30 similar actions have been filed against institutions of higher learning across the country.