The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted normal life and caused people to adjust to new circumstances by completely changing their routines. Remote work became the main element of the pandemic since thousands of businesses decided to avoid jeopardizing the health of their employees and asked them to stay at home. Many universities acted similarly and opted for online classes for their students, yet such measures led to scandals. Numerous students who were not satisfied with the online learning experience accused their universities of not providing the full value of education and filed lawsuits against them. Such students believe that not having a chance to take classes in person ultimately harms their ability to utilize the services of schools to their full capacity. In this situation, the correct conduct on the part of the university would be to reimburse students for the expenses they bore for receiving on-campus experience.
Several students filed lawsuits against their universities over pandemic-related matters, and Srishti Warman is one of them. The MBA candidate was not able to spend her time in Cambridge and failed to get an internship in the UK due to the restrictions introduced by her university (Ziady, 2020). Thus, the woman, who had to earn her degree online, decided to sue the school for providing only limited access to the program. In this situation, the university has to grant Warman and the rest of the students a considerable rebate which would partially offset their tuition costs.
Assessing the case more thoroughly requires determining the effect of the situation on all stakeholders involved in it. Students are certainly among the primary ones impacted by the pandemic and the decision of the university to restrict in-person classes. MBA education implies networking and being able to communicate with a variety of professionals, and online interactions cannot effectively substitute for them. Moreover, the Cambridge MBA program involves doing projects in teams, and conducting group meetings online can be difficult, especially for people with a poor internet connection (“The Cambridge,” n.d.). University is another stakeholder in this situation since it has to both ensure the safety of its students and still provide them with quality education. Switching to online learning was the most cost-efficient option the university could choose. Yet, the right decision would be to invest heavily in the infrastructure preventing the spread of the virus and keep in-person classes.
Lecturers and professors also constitute stakeholders because they were directly affected by the pandemic. Cambridge University Council asked some of them to voluntarily reduce their pay during the pandemic (Jack & Batley, 2020). Such measures are reasonable since they do not make it obligatory for the staff to decrease their salaries. Finally, the government also was a stakeholder in this case since, in the UK, the state introduced strict lockdowns and enforced social distancing (Weale, 2020). The university could not ignore these regulations and had to comply because continuing teaching students on campus would be illegal. Nevertheless, the school still must reimburse its clients for not being able to provide a complete education experience.
Another case involving students’ lawsuits against their school emerged in the US. Danielle Pranger and Garrett Harris claimed that Oregon State University unlawfully charged them full tuition despite switching to online classes (Boyette & Vera, 2021). Here, the students are the main stakeholders, and they should be given a partial refund for not being allowed to be physically present on campus. University itself is also a stakeholder, but similarly to Cambridge, it did not provide any options except for attending online classes. In the US, the federal government avoided introducing a nationwide lockdown while the state authorities mostly gave recommendations to academic institutions and other organizations. Thus, the government cannot be considered a stakeholder in this case since the university was free to design its way of containing the spread of the virus on campus. Instructors were equally affected by the situation, and the Oregon State University even reduced their salaries during the pandemic (Feser & Green, 2020). The university should have resolved its financial issues without compromising on the faculty’s pay by, for instance, borrowing money from a bank.
Thus, in both aforementioned cases, the students’ claims were completely justified because their universities did not provide them with the full value of the education for which they paid. Moreover, these universities did not leave any other choice for their students but to learn online, which can be difficult and limits one’s professional and academic opportunities. I believe that the students should win in both of the cases and receive partial refunds.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused universities to curb their in-person activities and transition to online learning out of safety concerns, yet such measures had to be accompanied by reductions in tuition fees. Nevertheless, many schools avoided decreasing expenses for their students and subsequently received lawsuits filed against them. Students who initiated these cases should be awarded reimbursements because their universities did not grant them an opportunity to choose between in-person and online classes. As a result, they could not utilize the services of their schools to their full capacity.
Boyette, C. & Vera, A. (2021). Students sue Oregon colleges over cost of remote learning during the pandemic. CNN. Web.
Feser, E. & Green, M. (2020). Temporary salary reduction. Oregon State University. Web.
Jack, V. & Batley, A. (2020). Staff promotions frozen, Toope to take 15% pay cut as University braces for Covid-19 financial impact. Varsity. Web.
The Cambridge MBA degree: Curriculum. (n.d.). University of Cambridge Judge Business School. Web.
Weale, S. (2020). Students may be compensated for lost teaching during UK lockdown. The Guardian. Web.
Ziady, H. (2020). She paid $68,000 to do an MBA at Cambridge. Now she’s studying via Zoom in India. CNN Business. Web.