On Thursday, September 28th, it was announced that Cornell University had agreed to a $3 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by students in 2020 following the suspension of in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit, initiated in April 2020, accused the Ivy League institution of inadequately refunding tuition, fees, and other costs paid by students as the pandemic disrupted normal campus operations.
The settlement stems from Alec Faber’s initial lawsuit, with the legal notice posted on the university’s website last week. Faber’s lawsuit stated, “While transitioning to online classes was the right thing for the Defendant to do, this decision deprived Plaintiff and other members of the Class from recognizing the benefits of in-person instruction, meals, access to campus facilities, student activities, and other benefits and services for which they had already paid fees and tuition.”
Despite denying any breach of contract and other allegations in its notice dated September 21, the university acknowledged the settlement on Thursday, stating it was in the “interests of both the University and its students in prompt resolution of the matter.” The agreement entails Cornell paying $3,000,000 into a settlement fund to resolve this action.
In-person classes were halted by mid-March 2020, and most students were instructed to vacate the campus by the end of March. Students seeking refunds tied to fees and other charges initiated a petition to reclaim some of their money, as per the lawsuit documentation.
Joel M. Malina, the Vice President for University Relations, said, “Cornell is pleased to have reached this settlement, which both sides believe is in the best interests of all parties.” Students have until November 9 to opt out of the payment or object to the possible settlement. The final approval hearing is scheduled for December 13, as per the legal papers.
With over 24,000 students enrolled, this settlement marks a significant chapter in the university’s response to the pandemic-induced challenges. The resolution not only reflects the financial restitution for the disrupted educational services but also signifies a step toward addressing the grievances of the student community during unprecedented times. The settlement is a notable development in the broader narrative of educational institutions adapting to the pandemic’s challenges and responding to the concerns of their student bodies.