LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — For the second time this week, a lawsuit has been filed against the University of Southern California alleging that it is profiting from the coronavirus pandemic by refusing to issue partial refunds for spring semester fees.
The class action lawsuit, which alleges breach of contract, was filed by attorneys for “Jane Doe” on behalf of all the university’s students who paid spring fees.
In a statement Thursday, USC said it was “disappointed” by the lawsuit, adding it believes “the evidence will show that USC took extraordinary steps to ensure continuity of the educational experience for its students. That information will become clear when we defend the university against the lawsuit.”
“Led by its committed and dedicated faculty, USC pivoted immediately to deliver quality instruction in an online format when the entire world was impacted by COVID-19,” the USC statement reads. “Faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to connect with students to ensure that academic work continues on track and that progress toward the completion of a USC degree continues. This is an unprecedented time for all educators but with hard work and rigor, we have maintained our academic standards during the transition to online learning required by the Safer at Home orders.
“Our priority is the education and well-being our students. We will continue to follow the guidance of public health officials and make decisions that are in the best interests of the entire USC community.”
On Tuesday, a separate class action lawsuit was filed against the university. The plaintiffs in the first complaint shared a similar argument, alleging breach of contract for USC’s refusal to reimburse portions of students’ fees after the university was forced to close the campus due to COVID-19.
Last week, USC Provost Charles F. Zukoski the school will not issue partial refunds for the spring semester, because the quality of the education has not changed as classes have shifted online.
“While this is not the semester any of us envisioned, we are continuing to provide a high-quality education, ensure academic progress towards degree, and offer a robust learning environment,” Zukoski said in an email to the campus community. “Whether our instructors present their classes in person or online, they bring the same expertise, depth of knowledge, and commitment to their teaching, and students continue to earn credits toward a USC degree.”
The proposed class action suits — filed “on behalf of all people who paid fees” for the spring 2020 academic semester or quarter at any of the CSU or UC campuses — allege despite ending most campus activities, CSU and UC unfairly and unlawfully refused to offer refunds for the unused portion of their mandatory campus fees.
The fees covered student use of health facilities, health services, instructional-related activities, student association dues and the use of student centers, according to the plaintiffs.
“Students’ lives have already been turned upside down by this crisis, and the decisions of CSU and UC only serve to exacerbate their pain,” Adam Levitt, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said. “Through these lawsuits, we encourage CSU and UC to reconsider their positions and make more fair, legal, and empathetic decisions for their students and their families.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)