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Northeastern University Hit with Lawsuit Over COVID-18 Shutdown

— May 7, 2020

Northwestern University is at the center of a lawsuit over its campus shutdown due to COVID-19.

Northeastern University was recently hit with a lawsuit filed by a graduate student over the school’s decision to shut down in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts by Manny Chong, a student pursuing a master’s degree in counseling psychology. According to Chong, the university “breached its contract with tuition-paying students when it moved its classes online but retained the full cost of tuition that students paid with the expectation of receiving an in-person education for the entire semester.”

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Legal books; image courtesy of witwiccan via Pixabay,

The university has about 18,000 enrolled undergraduate students and 9,000 graduate students, all of whom have been prohibited from the university’s campus since the middle of March. Since then, classes have switched over to online instruction, and “students living in university residence halls were required to leave.” When the university decided to shut down, it said that “room and board costs will be pro-rated for the remainder of the semester for all students leaving campus.” As of 2019, the school had an endowment of over $1 billion. Additionally, the university announced that it plans to “distribute $5.8 million it receives under the federal CARES Act to students who have been adversely impacted by COVID-19.” School officials added:

“These funds will be distributed to students who have incurred expenses from the disruption of campus operations, including food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care.”

That’s announcement wasn’t good enough for students like Chong, who forked over $23,400 for spring tuition fees under the ‘Annual Financial Responsibility Agreement’ “in which students agreed to pay full tuition to receive educational services.”

When commenting on the case, Chong’s attorney, Douglas Hartman, said the term ‘educational services’ is undefined. The complaint further states:

“For a period of several weeks and throughout the month of April 2020, no tuition-paying Northeastern student has been able to access Northeastern’s on-campus facilities and resources, such as the campus’ classrooms, library (along with the assembled hard copy academic resources there), the campus student center, or the campus’ three fitness facilities. Since March 12, 2020, no tuition-paying Northeastern student has received instruction from Northeastern faculty in-person.”

Additionally, the lawsuit shines a spotlight on “guidelines and principles issued by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association, which provides accreditation for the university’s PhD-level counseling psychology program.” According to those guidelines and principles, “doctoral program conducted remotely cannot be accredited because face-to-face, in-person interaction between faculty and students is critical for professional training, specifically for socialization and peer interaction, faculty role modeling, and the development and assessment of competencies.”

Hartman also noted that remote instruction is inferior to in-person instruction.


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