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Student sues BYU, saying move to online classes offered ‘subpar’ education

"A Brigham Young University student sued the private school Wednesday, claiming he didn’t get what he paid for when the campus was closed and classes were moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chase Hiatt, an undergraduate during the winter and spring 2020 semesters and who enrolled for classes this fall, claims in the federal lawsuit that the online learning options offered at BYU are “subpar” compared to the educational experience provided before classes were suspended in March.

While Hiatt is currently the only plaintiff in the case, his attorney, Michael Watton, is looking to make it a class-action suit.

“In short, plaintiffs and the members of the class have paid for tuition for a first-rate education and an on-campus, in-person educational experience, with all the appurtenant benefits offered by a first-rate university, and were provided a materially deficient and insufficient alternative, which alternative constitutes a breach of the contracts entered into by plaintiffs and the class with the university,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

BYU priced the tuition and mandatory fees based on the in-person educational services, opportunities and experiences it was providing on campus, according to the suit. Claims in the lawsuit include breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

BYU has not seen the lawsuit, university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said Wednesday."

I wonder how far this lawsuit will get?

 

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1 hour ago, JAHS said:

I wonder how far this lawsuit will get?

Well, you can file for any case.  So I'm guessing it'll get to: filing.  And that's about it.  There's just no case here and no court is going to want to set any precedent.

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I don't know, but I cannot possibly imagine how a court is going to want to open the floodgates to this type of suit under these circumstances. 

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1 minute ago, Jane_Doe said:

Well, you can file for any case.  So I'm guessing it'll get to: filing.  And that's about it.  There's just no case here and no court is going to want to set any precedent.

Ahhh, Jane, ya big Party Pooper!  Ya beat me ... but only by a few seconds! :angry::aggressive:

:D:rofl::D

 

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5 minutes ago, Jane_Doe said:
1 hour ago, JAHS said:

I wonder how far this lawsuit will get?

Well, you can file for any case.  So I'm guessing it'll get to: filing.  And that's about it.  There's just no case here and no court is going to want to set any precedent.

Right. Such a precedent could start a wave of lawsuits in a lot of universities. 

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Isn’t there a “an act of God” clause in most contracts...something out of the person’s control means they are not liable?

I had an in-law lose their business because the landlord would not pay damages from a flooded toilet upstairs claiming it was an “act of God”.

Edited by Calm
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5 minutes ago, Calm said:

Isn’t there a “an act of God” clause in most contracts...something out of the person’s control means they are not liable?

I had an in-law lose their business because the landlord would not pay damages from a flooded toilet upstairs claiming it was an “act of God”.

God's responsible for toilet maintenance, eh? :huh:  Who knew? :unknw:

:D:rofl::D

I know it's no laughing matter for your in-law or for you, but, you know ... laugh-or-scream ...

 

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18 minutes ago, Kenngo1969 said:

God's responsible for toilet maintenance, eh? :huh:  Who knew? :unknw:

:D:rofl::D

I know it's no laughing matter for your in-law or for you, but, you know ... laugh-or-scream ...

 

We all laughed about it iirc even as they were grinding their teeth and calling him scum. 

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2 hours ago, JAHS said:

.............................

I wonder how far this lawsuit will get?

 

1 hour ago, Jane_Doe said:

Well, you can file for any case.  So I'm guessing it'll get to: filing.  And that's about it.  There's just no case here and no court is going to want to set any precedent.

It is clearly breach of contract, and American courts revel in enforcing contracts -- the heart and soul of American jurisprudence.  These kinds of cases will be heard all across the country.  Especially at expensive schools like Harvard and Yale.  Students certainly have a right to sue.  The only alternative the colleges have is to reduce tuition and fees due to the subpar service they must offer.  However, next year, provided there is an effective vaccine, things will get back to normal.

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I can see the "need" to reduce tuition for on-line courses at most universities; particularly the elite, Ivy-league schools. However, as far as BYU goes, I don't get it. It is so heavily subsidized by the Church it is a tough argument to make that BYU is enriching itself. 

...and I really hate these types of lawsuits and the people that bring them. Our society is so litigious that any action may result in a lawsuit.  

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3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

 

It is clearly breach of contract, and American courts revel in enforcing contracts -- the heart and soul of American jurisprudence.  These kinds of cases will be heard all across the country.  Especially at expensive schools like Harvard and Yale.  Students certainly have a right to sue.  The only alternative the colleges have is to reduce tuition and fees due to the subpar service they must offer.  However, next year, provided there is an effective vaccine, things will get back to normal.

Couldn’t they just refund the tuition and fees and bid the plaintiff a fond farewell? 

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36 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Couldn’t they just refund the tuition and fees and bid the plaintiff a fond farewell? 

If he does receive a refund, will he return the credits he earned for the semester in question?

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BYU priced the tuition and mandatory fees based on the in-person educational services, opportunities and experiences it was providing on campus, according to the suit.

If BYU had not gone online, one of those opportunities and experiences might have been exposure to Covid-19. He probably would have sued in that scenario also.

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It's really unfortunate to see this.

On the one hand, I understand the loss a student might feel by a drastically-altered school environment. For some students, it changes their educational experience fundamentally, so it's not what they paid for. On the other hand, I have watched educators from primary school to high school to university level scrambling to accommodate the safety of their staff and students, while dealing with the immediate needs as well as the requirements of their local and national governments.

If a student feels they will have to retake the courses in order to learn the material, they will then need funds to retake the course. But, surely there will be some institutions that will suffer severe financial crises due to the disruption of the pandemic. Early on, I was hearing predictions about the millions UK schools are expected to lose in funds from international students who will not be returning during the coming year. Many unis receive a greater proportion  of fees from foreign students since they own more than the local rate. For instance: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/universitys-search-for-9m-cuts-puts-languages-at-risk-pq6nz39bv

 

Edited by Meadowchik
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14 hours ago, Thinking said:

If he does receive a refund, will he return the credits he earned for the semester in question?

I’m only speaking hypothetically, but I would think he would not be due any credits, not having paid the tuition. 
 

When I was at BYU in the mid-‘70s, I instantly earned 16 credit hours of A by taking and scoring high on the Swedish-language test. To get them, though, I would have had to pay tuition. I ended up foregoing them, because I needed the money more than I needed the credits. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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Deadline to sign up might have passed before it was announced, are refunds allowed? I remember at least partials...he does seem to want to have his cake and eat it to though. 

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6 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Couldn’t they just refund the tuition and fees and bid the plaintiff a fond farewell? 

I doubt it, but maybe one of our lawyers on this board could give us a hint.

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Colleges and universities are likely to see many lawsuits in the near future. Some of them will be well-deserved but they are in a tough spot financially.

For example, I have 3 kids in college. (well, one is getting ready to start this fall)  For my incoming freshman the school requires freshman to live in the dorms. That's about $1100 a month. At orientation last week they told us that even if in-person classes are cancelled the dorms will stay open no matter what. Therefore there will be no refunds for housing expenses, even though they require it BUT aren't allowing students into class. I'm not sure how that works. On campus dorms stay open even though on campus classes are cancelled. Seems like a desperate move to me and I can't imagine many parents/students will let that stand IF it happens.

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1 hour ago, Calm said:

Deadline to sign up might have passed before it was announced, are refunds allowed? I remember at least partials...he does seem to want to have his cake and eat it to though. 

Students were notified prior to Fall registration, so he knew exactly what he was signing up for. He thought he was being ripped off but chose to continue. 
 

I understand the disappointment. I work for a university and this year has been extraordinarily difficult for all, given the unprecedented circumstances.  Universities are trying to do their best to keep everyone safe. And alive. We’ve all had to make sacrifices. My pay - along with the vast majority of university employees- has been cut 20%.  And that’s just one impact.

Things could be worse. Without today’s technology, remote learning and telecommuting wouldn’t even exist. 

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I'm wondering if this isn't an issue of feeling like the charges for online classes aren't fair and wanting that addressed?

I remember how taken back I was when I realized what I was being charged for an online class in Montana in 2012, where I would never step foot on campus.   I had to pay fees for computer usage, paper usage, recreational facilities usage, library usage, etc. even though the class was completely online and I had no intention of using the schools computers, library, copiers (which they make you pay for anyway), gym, or anything else on campus.  It really did feel like a scam and I'm not sure how it's exactly legal to charge someone (who might not even be in the same state as the school) for such things.

 

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37 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I'm wondering if this isn't an issue of feeling like the charges for online classes aren't fair and wanting that addressed?

I remember how taken back I was when I realized what I was being charged for an online class in Montana in 2012, where I would never step foot on campus.   I had to pay fees for computer usage, paper usage, recreational facilities usage, library usage, etc. even though the class was completely online and I had no intention of using the schools computers, library, copiers (which they make you pay for anyway), gym, or anything else on campus.  It really did feel like a scam and I'm not sure how it's exactly legal to charge someone (who might not even be in the same state as the school) for such things.

 

I understand your point.

With Covid, there was no way this could have been anticipated, so everyone has had to scramble to make adjustments on the fly. 
 

I know that where I work, Administration has recognized these issues and have made adjustments to fees, etc.  They are also willing to speak to students about any Covid related concerns, and make what adjustments they can.   It’s probably not much different at BYU or elsewhere. 

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