OPINION: Student lawsuit against University of Texas justified


Ben Cardillo

The University of Texas has conducted online classes via Zoom since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced students all over the world to abruptly adjust to an online class format when they were previously attending classes in person. This is a major adjustment for everyone, and students have found their own personal struggles throughout adapting to the change. 

The University of Texas at Austin has encountered a lawsuit regarding their adjustment to online classes. One student is suing the university in a class-action lawsuit for claiming to have a “drastically different” online class experience compared to the in-person class experience. Plaintiff Anissa Reyes is suing on the grounds that there was no decrease in tuition price when the university operations moved to a virtual format. Reyes is asking for compensation for herself and other students who paid for an in-person class experience while receiving an online education, and is requesting an appropriate refund to equal the amount lost with the online experience. 

The transition to online learning was abrupt for all schools, and the experience is obviously going to be different when you have to make such a drastic change. Slow action in the beginning makes sense, since no one knew how long this would last. I do believe that schools should have issued partial refunds at this point, as this has now been going on for a year. However, I understand why the issue is more complicated, as the pandemic is not something that universities can control. 

The pandemic has obviously been a stressful situation for everyone. With so much government action and compensation occurring (stimulus checks, extended tax deadlines etc.), universities could be doing more to help students financially, especially since so many people have been out of work since the pandemic began. It’s quite unfortunate that it has come to the point where there are lawsuits regarding this issue, but I can understand the frustration students are feeling regarding their situations not being accommodated. I can also see the side of the universities, in that they have no control over the pandemic and must feel like they shouldn’t need to give out refunds if they are doing their best. I don’t believe that every university should have a lawsuit brought against them and I do feel it is a bit extreme, but I do hope this lawsuit prompts more universities to bring some kind of change regarding further compensation. 

Legally, the students have every right to bring a lawsuit against the university. “In short, as to tuition, Plaintiff and the members of the Class have paid tuition for a first-rate education and educational experience” the lawsuit states, “and were provided a materially different and insufficient product, which constitutes a breach of the contracts entered into by Plaintiff and the Class with the University.” 

A lawsuit may seem like a drastic action to take when it comes to this issue, yet it is understandable when all perspectives are considered. Now that we have just passed a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it is time now more than ever to consider more of what can be done to improve students’ situations.