An Ohio University alumna filed a class-action lawsuit against the university in early June that seeks a partial refund on tuition and fees following the shift of academic instruction online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suit was filed in the Ohio Court of Claims on June 12 and was initiated by Lily Zahn, a 2020 OU alumna who studied strategic communications. The class is representative of all students who paid tuition and fees to attend OU during Spring Semester, Summer Semester or any additional semesters where in-person classes were moved to online learning.
Zahn and other OU students paid tuition and fees for a “first-rate education and an on-campus, in-person educational experience” and were instead given a “materially deficient and insufficient alternative” after March 10, when remote learning was instituted due to COVID-19. This constitutes a breach of contract, according to the lawsuit.
“In tacit acknowledgment that the online education system is substantially different and inadequate, the University allowed students to receive a ‘Satisfactory/No Credit’ grade rather than the traditional letter grading system,” according to the suit. “The ability to change to a Satisfactory/No Credit grade after reviewing your letter grade first provides an educational leniency that does not require the motivation or discipline that would be otherwise required under the usual in-person letter grading system.”
The suit alleges online classes were also “sub-par in practically every aspect” due to the inability of students to ask questions during pre-recorded lectures and the ability for students to use outside materials when taking exams. Those aspects did not allow for the growth of interpersonal skills or the development of strong studying skills, according to the suit.
Members of the class have previously taken action to receive a tuition refund. Over 1,400 students signed a petition in May requesting a change in Spring Semester tuition, according to a previous Post report.
Michael Chaney, a senior studying sports management and the creator of the petition, said OU students were not receiving the same education they agreed to pay for in the beginning.
The suit further alleges OU breached its contract and “the covenant of good faith and fair dealing” with students by failing to provide the services that fees and tuition funded after March 10.
Access to libraries, labs and study rooms were no longer provided. Additional buildings on campus are still closed or under restricted access, according to OU’s website.
“The University’s retention of the portion of the tuition and Mandatory Fees during the period of time the University has been closed, and Plaintiff and the members of the Class have been denied an in-person and on-campus live education and access and the services and facilities for which the Mandatory Fees were paid, is unjust and inequitable under the circumstances,” according to the suit.