More than 1,200 people sign petition urging officials to refund half of spring tuition

Media Credit: Lillian Bautista | Assistant Photo Editor

The petition calls on officials to provide a partial tuition refund, citing financial stressors from the pandemic and the difference in experience between online and in-person classes.

A petition calling on officials to refund half of students’ tuition bills this semester has garnered more than 1,200 signatures.

Freshman Ruby Samim launched the petition Friday after conversations with family and friends about transitioning to online classes for the remainder of the spring semester, a step officials took to try to curb the spread of COVID-19. She said officials should return half of tuition payments made this semester because students paid for the experience of taking courses in-person, rather than online, a fundamentally different ordeal.

“Due to classes being online, GW needs to give a partial refund to all students,” the petition states. “Students pay to attend in-person classes, not online ones. If students wanted to attend online classes, they could have chosen to do so somewhere else for cheaper.”

The petition calls on officials to be “sympathetic” to students and their families during the pandemic because they may be experiencing unemployment or “other stressors.” Keeping tuition dollars while not providing the “promised” level of service is neither “fair” nor “ethical,” the petition states.

“Online classes do not provide the same experience,” the petition states. “GW is not holding up their end of the deal when it comes to providing education; therefore, we should not be paying our full tuition.”

The petition is one of several to emerge as the pandemic shuts down life on campus. Students circulated a petition last week urging officials to reschedule this year’s Commencement after officials canceled the celebration, leading University President Thomas LeBlanc to announce that the Class of 2020 will join next year’s ceremonies in May 2021.

A petition urging officials to move to a Pass/No Pass basis for grading this semester received almost 5,000 signatures before officials announced the change, and another petition asking administrators to allow students to gather their own belongings from residence halls, rather than have a moving company handle the process, has received more than 1,100 signatures.

Samim, the petition’s creator, said in an interview that she created the petition because it’s “really unfair” for officials to charge students the full cost of tuition while classes are held virtually when online schools throughout the country cost “way less.”

“What are we paying for if we’re not getting that?” she said about online classes. “We’re just paying to have Zoom. Some professors, they’re not even doing Zoom, they’re doing like, teach yourself basically with these slides. And if I’m teaching myself, what am I paying for?”

Samim said she is not surprised by the number of signatures the petition has garnered, adding that officials should acknowledge the petition’s support and partially refund tuition as they have with other student expenses, like housing and dining.

“I just want them to address it because I think they’re also aware that this is an issue, and the fact they haven’t addressed it is shady to me,” she said. “Because I’m like, ‘You guys don’t want to put ideas in people’s heads.’ Is that why you’re not seeing it? What’s going on?”

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