Yale student sues school, claiming online classes were inferior

Yale student sues school, claiming online classes were inferior
© Yale University | Michael Marsland

A Yale student is suing the Ivy League university, claiming that the institution's online classes during the coronavirus pandemic have been inferior to regular, in-person instruction.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court in New Haven, asserts that Yale breached its contract with its students after it refused to refund student tuition when it switched to full online classes to finish the remainder of the 2019-20 school year due to COVID-19. The online classes, the suit argues, were an inferior product, thus justifying tuition refunds.

For the 2019-20 school year, Yale's tuition, excluding room and board, was $55,500. For the upcoming 2020-21 school year, the institution's website lists tuition at $57,700.

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Jonathan Michel — the student plaintiff — says in the court documents that Yale “cannot replace the comprehensive educational experience" that it promised, noting that online classes have caused students at the prestigious university to lose “access to facilities, materials, and faculty, and the opportunity for on campus living, school events, collaborative learning, dialogue, feedback and critique are essential to the in-person educational experience.”

“While this step to close campus and end in-person classes was necessitated by circumstances, [Yale] effectively breached or terminated the contract Yale had with each and every student and tuition provider, who paid for the opportunity to participate fully in the academic life on the Yale campus,” the lawsuit adds.

Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart told the Hartford Courant that Michel's lawsuit has no legal ground to stand on and that the university plans on mounting a steadfast defense against the complaint.

“Yale acted to protect the community by moving quickly and effectively to online classes, which allowed students to complete the semester safely,” Peart said. “Yale also provided students with prorated refunds for the room and board that they were unable to use."

The college's current plan for the fall is to have some of its students return to campus, but still conduct mainly online classes.

The Hill has reached out to Yale for further comment.