Hey, there! Log in / Register

Emerson to pay $2.1 million to settle suit over the way it moved to online classes due to Covid-19

A federal judge could give final approval on Tuesday to a deal between lawyers representing Emerson College and its students in 2020 in which the school will pay $2.1 million for switching classes to online only after Gov. Baker declared a state of emergency in March, 2020.

Under the deal, all Emerson students enrolled for the spring semester in 2020 would be eligible to split roughly $1.34 million. The three law firms in Boston and New York who brought the suit in US District Court would split $750,000 for their work and $6,482.45 in "out of pocket" expenses.

In settling the case, Emerson says it did nothing wrong, but agreed to settle because going to trial would be even more expensive.

Ryan Porter, a Mission Viejo, CA resident, filed the class-action suit in October, 2020, five months after he graduated, claiming that instead of the "first-rate education and on-campus, in person educational experiences" he was promised, he got "a materially deficient and insufficient alternative" for the last couple of months of his final semester. His suit sought a refund of the pro-rated portion of his tuition, room and board and fees for the period during which the school taught students exclusively online.

In a filing calling for the complete dismissal of the suit, Emerson said it never promised Porter or anybody else an in-person education and that its professors and staff worked admirably in the face of a global pandemic to continue to give students a first-class education.

Thanks to Emerson’s diligent efforts, students were able to complete their coursework, earn academic credits, receive student services, and, in the case of seniors, obtain their degrees. Plaintiff Ryan Porter was one of those students. Plaintiff accepted the transition to remote instruction without complaint, graduated from Emerson in May 2020, was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, was placed on the Dean’s List, and had his name displayed in lights on the side of an 11-story building in Boston to celebrate his accomplishments. Five months later he sued his alma mater.

Porter's complaint (1.3M PDF).
Emerson's memorandum on dismissing the suit (300k PDF)
Proposed settlement (172k PDF).

Neighborhoods: 

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

I can see an avalanche of lawsuits coming against other colleges and universities if this is successful.

up
Voting closed 41

No, Ron, settlements do not set precedents. Not even close. Only rulings by appeals courts or higher can set precedents.

up
Voting closed 28

but a settlement can certainly stimulate copycats.

up
Voting closed 8

I don't understand this ruling at all. The school did absolutely nothing negligent, and the students still got instruction and a degree. And aren't people usually not entitled to any sort of refund or remedy for "acts of god" and so forth?

up
Voting closed 32

"Acts of god" don't necessarily mean that a business gets to keep your money without providing the service. It seems to me that online instead of in-person classes reasonably fall under "acts of god."

However, a college that closed the dorms and dining halls might owe students a refund for the weeks of meals and housing that they were charged for in advance and not given.

[None of those links for the complaint, defense statement, or settlement is working for me.]

up
Voting closed 31

They settled, there is no ruling other than the judge saying “yes, you can settle.”

up
Voting closed 20

Sure but $1.3 million / 4,561 students = $285 per student. That's a 1% refund of a semester's tuition.

up
Voting closed 20

You forgot the lawyer's take.

up
Voting closed 16

Employers take note: Ryan Porter received a "a materially deficient and insufficient alternative" for the last few months of his college education. Make your offers accordingly. Forever.

up
Voting closed 52

joking about blacklisting/personal retaliation is not funny

up
Voting closed 32

I don’t think it was meant as a joke.

up
Voting closed 19

He's publicly stated he doesn't have an adequate education, so why should he get to have it both ways?

up
Voting closed 43

“Make your offers accordingly. Forever.“

Ya, on the job training and education is worthless. College education is the only true training.

up
Voting closed 11

Most companies are free to stop using college education as a requirement for jobs any time they feel like it.

up
Voting closed 15

ah, thus were the days of MarkKK and Fish..

up
Voting closed 24

With the cost passed on to future students.

up
Voting closed 20

That’s $2.1 million that could have gone to improving facilities, hiring new faculty, offering scholarships, etc. Completely agree that this sets a problematic precedent and that Emerson didn’t do anything different from what every other college and university was also doing in spring 2020.

up
Voting closed 27

A waiver before enrolling in any semester classes during the online class time of fall 2020, and all 2021. I reckon other colleges would have done the same to forestall this type of suit.

I started grad school there in fall 2020 after 3 years of preparation, and I wanted exactly the type of on campus in person experience that was inexplicably eliminated by mass fear. I feel gypped out of at least 50% of the quality and social utility that would otherwise have been a part of my traditional campus experience. I definitely would start a suit like this to Tufts, once I get the money to start it.

However, there must be a loophole! C’mon, sneaky lawyers, nows your chance to shine!

up
Voting closed 41

1) lose the ethnic slur

2) your COVID denying and lack of understanding of science is going to negatively affect your learnedness and future prospects a lot more than your lack of in-person socialization

up
Voting closed 57

Yeah, mass fear of mass death. Six and a half million people died, you know, a million of them right here in the good old USA. I suppose fear of millions dying is inexplicable to some.

up
Voting closed 36

If you did, how did you miss learning that the G-word you used (to mean "cheated") is extremely offensive?

up
Voting closed 28

If you wanted the in-person experience, why did you decide to attend when there was no in-person experience? That seems like a stupid choice.

up
Voting closed 15

Continuing to charge full price for a clearly inferior product is the issue here.

up
Voting closed 55

Were syllabi completely disregarded?
Were courses conducted in ancient Greek?
Did students have no channels of communication with each other, with TA's or professors?
Were ancillary learning resources not available online?

The list here is limitless...

You seem to be diminishing the value of something in a comparable manner that Trump would over value something, such as real estate, when the actual value is a constant.

For companies that mobilized their employees to work remotely, would you consider their revenues as "inferior" because the actual work wasn't performed in an office park?

up
Voting closed 37

Please quantify, "inferior"
Were syllabi completely disregarded?
Were courses conducted in ancient Greek?
Did students have no channels of communication with each other, with TA's or professors?
Were ancillary learning resources not available online?

You're challenging for quantitative points, while yourself making qualitative arguments. Can't have it both ways.

up
Voting closed 25

When there is none...

up
Voting closed 16

...is cheaper than fighting it out in court. Sounds like a lawsuit that Emerson could win on the merits instead of absorbing settlement costs that could surely be spent on better things.

up
Voting closed 22

That's a laugh...97% of their operating dollars com from student tuition. The Classes of '23 to '26 are paying for it.

up
Voting closed 15

did they also give a discount for working at home while the courts were closed?

up
Voting closed 15

Slow clap

up
Voting closed 13

100 billion dollars!

up
Voting closed 13