Lawsuits against GW during pandemic are unwarranted

GW’s switch to online classes has left many students feeling shortchanged by their education. But during a crisis, families should understand that officials are trying their best to help students.

Two lawsuits have been filed against GW so far alleging that students should not have paid for the full spring semester after the switch to online classes. The most recent requests additional compensation following the move online. Two students who filed the lawsuit claimed they should not have paid full tuition for a college experience cut short by COVID-19. But the University can only do so much to financially assist students before it tanks.

Officials have done more than enough to help students financially hurt by COVID-19, paying for their storage and shipping, refunding students for every night they don’t spend in their residence hall and reserving millions in federal funding for students. The lawsuit is not merited given officials’ extensive response to the pandemic – if anything, GW is setting an example for how colleges should aid struggling students through the pandemic.

GW has shown understanding for the economic hardship families face and acknowledged that parents have paid for more than what they expected to receive. Students were refunded a prorated amount of their housing payment for the time they did not live in their residence hall, and dining dollars will roll into the next semester or were reimbursed upon request.

On top of that, GW is doling out funds to students who demonstrate financial need. Officials are providing emergency funding for housing assistance, food, transportation, income, technology access, medical expenses and other needs. The University is also giving all of its more than $9 million federal grant to students in need despite facing its own monetary losses. GW has demonstrated a concerted effort to support students with the extra financial resources at its disposal. 

The University has also worked to create a smooth transition from in person to online learning. Resources and support have been offered to students through University libraries and on Blackboard. GW offered ongoing support in learning how to utilize these resources by providing contact numbers and email for technology support. Access to free digital textbooks was also given to students through the GW bookstore, and Gelman Library remained digitally open. Online classes may have not been perfect, but officials were making a sincere effort to provide students with the best education during a public health crisis.

It’s fair that struggling families want additional financial relief from their universities. Many other universities also have pending lawsuits against them pertaining to COVID-19. But universities are going to continue to be burdened by the crisis and need to spend wisely. No school ever expected to give students a subpar college experience and shouldn’t be punished for circumstances that are out of its control.

In this time of uncertainty, we can’t dwell on the spring semester and all its shortcomings. We have faced unprecedented challenges during the switch to online classes and need to continue looking and planning ahead. GW is doing the best it can during unexpected times, and for now, that is enough.

Jane Cameron, a rising sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication, is an opinions writer

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