In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges have vowed not to tolerate large gatherings of students. Some have even introduced suspension penalties for students caught attending gatherings. With the fall semester underway, however, some students who were suspended for COVID violations are fighting back with legal action.
COVID Guidelines Too Strict?
A new report from NPR detailed litigation being brought against Northeastern University on behalf of two dismissed students. The students were reportedly caught hanging out in a dorm with nine other students, in violation of university regulations. Not only did the school dismiss the students from campus, but it also kept their tuition fees of $36,500 each.
The incident drew mixed responses from other students, some of whom did not sympathize.
“I was just like, come on — that’s really irresponsible and selfish,” said Avery Collard, a junior at the campus. “There’s very specific rules that say you can’t do that. […] [They’re] adults. I know it’s hard, but act like it!”
However, others felt that the school was not justified in keeping the students’ tuition money.
“I think there are other ways to send a message than to take $36,000 away from incoming students,” said Rhyia Bibby, another junior. “I also think it’s important that in freshman year, a bit of grace can be given.”
Such controversies have been popping up at schools across the country. In August, for example, Syracuse University suspended 23 students after a gathering of hundreds broke out in the quad area. In a statement, the school called the students’ behavior “incredibly reckless.”
According to NPR, incidents like these have prompted a wave of litigation against schools across the US. Attorney Andrew Miltenberg, who has represented students accused of sexual assault in the past, told the outlet that his caseload has turned lately to COVID suspensions.
“This has gone from a few cases here and there to a near epidemic,” said Miltenburg, who feels that schools are suspending students too hastily. “They’re not allowing any mitigating circumstances. People are being summarily suspended, and there is no due process.”
Meanwhile, the attorney representing the two Northeastern students, Brett Joshpe, said his clients were unfairly targeted by the school.
“This is just a spiteful, gratuitous, grossly disproportionate penalty,” he said, adding that his clients were “just watching a basketball game with friends, with masks on.”
In a statement addressing the issue, Northeastern said they would not reverse their decision, nor would they refund tuition. However, the school later notified the students that they could apply some of the lost funds to future tuition if they return.