CWRU student files class action lawsuit against the university

Nathan Lesch, Executive Editor

“When airlines cancel their flights, they refund their customers a partial amount,” said Daniel Lozada, a third-year Case Western Reserve University student majoring in economics and minoring in philosophy. “Can I not expect the same from my alma mater?”

On Oct. 13, Lozada’s lawyers, attorneys Jeffrey Brown and Jason Sultzer, filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland, claiming the university breached its contract with students by overcharging them for the allegedly less than satisfactory educational experience they received virtually, as a result of the university moving to remote learning in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The suit’s goal is for students to receive a partial refund of spring 2020 tuition, along with fees for services that were not provided to students by CWRU.

“I thought the price that we paid for the spring 2020 semester was unfair. I don’t blame CWRU or anyone else—the causes of the pandemic and the closure of the school were not their fault,” Lozada explained. “What doesn’t sit right with me is that they charged us the exact same amount for an online semester as they would for normal semesters. The quality of the education [was] not the same … It’s simply unfair to charge five figures for the same product that you could find on Coursera or EdX for a fraction of the cost.”

Lozada’s dissatisfaction with CWRU’s remote classes is not unique. CWRU’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG)—specifically its Academic Affairs division—launched a student body survey on Sept. 20 that attempted, among other things, to gauge student satisfaction with online classes. The results were robust. Seventy-four percent of students felt that the quality of education was better in person compared to 3.1 percent who preferred remote.

With those students’ preferences in mind, the statement USG provided to The Observer was largely supportive of Lozada’s efforts to improve the lot of his fellow students.

“Universities obviously are so costly and to pay those same tuition costs while being back home for half a semester is … very tough. It really takes guts and strength from a student perspective to channel that feeling into a lawsuit against an entire higher education institution,” the statement read. “So Dan [Lozada] deserves credit for standing up for what he believes is right—for not only him but all CWRU students.”

However, USG’s statement was not without sympathy for the university.

“On the whole, much of the University’s expenses did not decline after going remote but, regardless of that, it’s clear that the virtual quality of education could not replicate in-person learning, while students simultaneously were not able to experience campus life.”

It should be noted that CWRU acted early and decisively in deciding to institute remote classes as the coronavirus started to become more prevalent in the U.S. Following this difficult decision in March, administrators have worked to balance students’ educational needs, the campus community’s overall health and various economic imperatives. Being able to bring back even some students to campus this fall––while still effectively managing the virus—has certainly been an accomplishment.

Still, Lozada asks CWRU to be more compassionate and understanding when considering the burdens facing students at this time.

“Most of us are breaking our backs financially to be able to afford this school,” Lozada explained. “I understand that the university incurred losses due to the pandemic, but they have a close to a [$2 billion] endowment—the rest of us have student loans.”

According to a statement from the university provided to The Observer, “[CWRU] is reviewing the complaint and has no comment at this time.”