OPINION | Don’t sue universities; they’re doing the best they can

The financial situation for students this semester seems to be a rising concern, between hybrid classes and online courses. Suing universities for struggling to teach in this environment is a waste of money, Stephanie Du Par says. Photo by Breanna Biorato.

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As universities are adapting to remote learning, students are filing lawsuits against their schools, wanting tuition back and citing a subpar education experience.

I empathize with students who are frustrated and angry at the current situation, but suing your school is not the solution. These lawsuits take time, money and other resources away from students and teachers who are just doing the best they can in this unprecedented time.

According to KSL, a student from Brigham Young University, Chase Hiatt, is suing his alma mater, claiming that his online classes are “subpar” to the in-class learning he had experienced previous to COVID-19. Haitt’s lawsuit claims “breach of contract and unjust enrichment” because BYU priced its tuition and fees based on in-person experience and opportunities.

Since spring, conversations have been developing about the role between students and universities, as well as the quality of online learning. One of the first discussions students turn to is about the roles of their teachers.

Our teachers didn’t sign up for this; they also want to be in the classroom. Unfortunately, the reality of our situation is that not all teachers understand technology or even care to understand. Our teachers grew up without online learning and have had to continually adapt to PowerPoint, YouTube and Google Drive. We need to give them grace and patience like they have for us time and time again.

When it comes to classes, academic acclaim is only part of the reason to attend a university. Individuals who want the experiences of Greek life, large athletic programs or highly competitive teams will choose an in-person university.

Other students chose an in-person university because they understand that the social, interactive and rigorous manners of being in the classroom have no comparison to online classes. But now, students are paying for an online education at an in-person class price.

But where does that money even go? Fees are essential to keep universities running in the interim where no classes are held. Faculty and staff still need to be paid; electricity still needs to be running.

At Dixie State University, two separate buildings on campus are still under construction. While I recognize the frustration of paying for something that is inaccessible, I also acknowledge that the university has been reliant on students for their own financial responsibilities, as well as funding a growing campus.

If DSU, for example, lowers tuition and isn’t able to raise enough capital for the new student housing or the Science, Engineering and Technology building, it is going to take longer to build, reducing the number of students who could have potentially used the facilities. Furthermore, with a reduction in income, DSU might have to lay off staff, implement a hiring freeze and won’t be able to provide necessary training for professors.

Yes, the suits have merit, but they neglect self-responsibility. Students aren’t just force-fed information; students can seek out information on their own. You get in what you put out. And whether you like it or not, suing the school and potentially taking money away from other students gives the impression that your education is more important than others.

Students who are still paying tuition and taking online classes aren’t suckers. They are doing the best they can and recognize that for at least the next semester or two, their academic life will be different.

Not to mention, schools have been making efforts to accommodate students, even if it is not to the extent students deem fair. DSU, the University of Utah, Utah State University and Southern Utah University have all reduced student fees. DSU has reduced its student fees by 27%, which is $113 for a full-time student. Although $113 will barely cover the fee for one textbook or access code, it’s a step forward.

Everyone is struggling and figuring out how to navigate COVID-19. It’s a multifaceted issue. Yes, teachers need to keep up and enhance their abilities to teach online. Yes, student fees need to be reduced. Yes, this whole situation and everything about it sucks, but legal action is not the answer.

Have some grace and patience for others around you. Put a mask on. Social distance. Read your syllabus. We will all get through this together.