Lawsuit against university on breach of contract upheld

April 23, 2021

A federal judge on April 13 ruled not to dismiss a lawsuit brought up against the university by Brandeis students. The lawsuit plaintiffs, Alan Thomas Omori and John Doe, argue that the university’s failure to reimburse students for the tuition difference between in-person and online education, after sending students home last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, constitutes breach of contract, according to the case document

Two class action lawsuits were filed in May 2020. One of the class action complaints against the university was filed by one Brandeis student, under the pseudonym John Doe, individually and on behalf of similarly situated students, according to the case document. The other was filed by Omori, individually and on behalf of similarly situated students, according to the case document.

“While closing campus and transitioning to online classes was the right thing for Defendant to do, this decision deprived Plaintiff and the other members of the Class from recognizing the benefits of in-person instruction, access to campus facilities, student activities, and other benefits and services in exchange for which they had already paid fees and tuition,” according to the original Omori lawsuit.  

The plaintiff’s case does not argue the quality of online courses provided by the university, like in the original lawsuit. The complaint is that students paid for on-campus tuition and fees for the spring 2020 semester and enrolled in courses with the anticipation of receiving the services that were paid for, according to the lawsuit, thus forming a contract between student and university where the student pays for a service and the university delivers.

When the university sent students home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and moved to online learning, they did not reimburse students sufficiently, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiff alleges that the university charges more than $1,700 per credit hour for each in-person course taken. However, each online course offering costs less than $1,200 per credit hour, according to the lawsuit

“The claim is that, by purportedly denying students such services while retaining full tuition, Brandeis has breached that contract,” according to the lawsuit.

The university made adjustments to students accounts for dining and housing for the spring 2020 semester, according to an email sent by Stew Uretsky, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration to the Brandeis community on March 30, 2020. Both adjustments were made based on the student’s move out date. 
The value of a plan’s points were deducted, but students did not lose their unused points; instead, they carried over to the next term. For housing, need-based Brandeis scholarships were adjusted based on the total room and board cost, and the adjustment was applied to the student’s account on sage, according to the email.

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