University facing class action over COVID campus lockdown

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. shutdown / ˈʃʌtˌdaʊn / (n.) – the action of temporarily or permanently stopping the operation or activity of a business or machine

    The factory shutdown will end as soon as the inspection is done.

  2. halt / hɔlt / (v.) – to make someone/something stop moving or happening

    The manager is halting the project because of an emergency.

  3. class action / klæs ˈæk ʃən / (n.) – a lawsuit in which different people join together to file a complaint against one person or group

    The factory talked to the families living in the area to avoid a class action over its use of dangerous chemicals.

  4. plaintiff / ˈpleɪn tɪf / (n.) – someone who takes legal action against another person in court

    After reaching an agreement with the accused, the plaintiff decided to not continue with the lawsuit.

  5. a full ride / ə fʊl raɪd / (idiom) – a school, college, or university's offer to cover all fees or expenses for a talented or excellent student

    He’s given a full ride for winning the chess championship for his school.


Read the text below.

A lawsuit against the University of Delaware over its campus shutdown and halting of in-person classes because of coronavirus can proceed as a class action on behalf of thousands of students who were enrolled and paid tuition in spring 2020, a federal judge has ruled.

The decision came just days before a scheduled hearing on the university’s request for the judge to rule in its favor without a trial. That hearing has been postponed indefinitely.

In his ruling, Judge Stephanos Bibas rejected the University of Delaware’s argument that the plaintiffs, who accuse the school of breach of contract and unjust enrichment, lacked standing to sue. The university also argued unsuccessfully that it is impossible to know who actually paid tuition because some students may have used outside sources like scholarships.

“Those students, no less than students who paid out of their own pockets, were parties to a contract that U. Delaware allegedly breached,” wrote the judge, who noted that the only students excluded from the class would be those who received full rides.

The plaintiffs have argued that, before the pandemic, the school treated in-person and online classes as separate offerings and charged more for some in-person programs than they did for similar online classes. They also noted that the university charged them fees for the gym, student centers, and the health center, sometimes at higher rates than those paid by online students, and that the school kept those fees while denying them the services.

The plaintiffs are seeking partial refunds of their spring 2020 tuition, having earlier agreed to dismiss their claims arising from student fees.

The university claimed that none of the named plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit paid tuition.

“That is false,” Bibas wrote. “The named plaintiffs paid tuition, through either loans or cash from their parents.”

Whether students were part-time or full-time might affect the damages to which they are entitled but does not affect the school’s liability, the judge added.

Bibas previously ruled that the plaintiffs had plausibly alleged that the school implicitly promised them in-person classes, activities and services.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The university kept the fees for the gym, student centers, and health centers while denying students the use of the facilities during the start of the pandemic. Do you think it’s fair for the university to refund these fees? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you agree that the university should also pay students who paid tuition through scholarships from other sources? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • After the pandemic, should universities and schools offer online and in-person programs for different fees? Why? Discuss.
  • What fees do you think students should be required to pay (ex. health centers, gym)? What about those that should not be required (ex. student centers)? Discuss.