We don't owe students refund for switching to online instruction, University of Michigan says
DETROIT - The University of Michigan does not owe students a refund for switching to online tuition at the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, primarily because it is authorized to determine a teaching method submitted by a court.
In this month's filing, university lawyers argued that a lawsuit filed by students seeking money for online tuition must be dismissed by the state's Court of Claims.
On the arguments put forward in the submission: the principles of academic freedom place the power to decide on teaching solely in the hands of the university, and the state constitution gives the university regent's sole control over how its money is spent becomes.
The University of Michigan is among the state's eight public universities - and several across the country - sued by students who say that distance learning was not what they paid for and that they deserve a refund for that tuition . UM is the only government agency to respond to lawsuits against the majority of state public universities, all submitted by the same attorney who represents different students at each school.
Three students walk towards the Michigan Union building on the main University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
UM switched to distance learning for the last 27 days of the winter semester after Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer placed several home stay orders. The university paid $ 1,200 for students who had lived in campus apartments and moved out.
However, no reimbursement was paid for tuition fees. Classes continued online and students were allowed to drop out.
More: More and more students are suing colleges that moved classes online due to a pandemic
Other schools where student complaints are filed include the University of Arizona, Boston University, Brown University, Drexel University, George Washington University, Indiana University, the University of Miami, Purdue University, and the Vanderbilt University.
Students suing the universities have argued that their tuition has been reduced through online use. The University of Michigan does not discuss this in its response, but says that the decision to issue instructions rests solely on the shoulders of the university and the courts must stay out of it.
"As the United States Supreme Court warned in the Regents of the University of Mich against Ewing based on the first change, courts must exercise judicial restraint and show" great respect for the faculty's professional judgment "of academic decisions," wrote UM's lawyers.
"Academic freedom for universities is 'a particular concern of the first change'. Academic freedom has been defined as a university's" four essential freedoms "for academic reasons to determine" who can teach, what can be taught, how it can be taught. " should be taught and who can be admitted to study ".
The lawsuit must also be dismissed because the court is not responsible for UM as it spends money, the lawyers say.
In person, online courses or a mix: plans to reopen the coronavirus in college 2020, detailed
The plaintiff's lawyer denied the university's allegations.
"We agree that the university is entitled to academic freedom, but the university is not above the law," said David Fink in a statement. "Students paid the university for services that the university could not provide - housing, food, and tuition. We understand that the pandemic made it impossible to provide some of these services, but the students and their families should not have to pay for services that they have not received.
"In the end, this is a simple contract. When you leave your home, you don’t pay rent anymore. If a meal plan isn’t met, you’ll expect a partial refund, and once you’ve paid for class, you’re expecting a refund, if the school can't do it. "
No dates have been set for hearings or decisions in this case, or for any other lawsuit against other Michigan public universities.
This article originally appeared in Detroit Free Press: University of Michigan: No Student Refund for Switching to Online Courses
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