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Harvard Law Student Is Suing the University Over Tuition Prices As Classes Remain Online
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A Harvard Law student is suing the university for failing to lower tuition prices and fees despite classes being moved to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ABC news reports.

Abraham Barkhordar, 23, told ABC News in an exclusive interview, he decided to file a lawsuit against Harvard Law School for disrespecting the students, as tuition and fees have remained the same despite classes being moved to a remote format.

“They’ve actually suggested that to mitigate the difficulties of online learning that we rent office space as students,” Barkhordar told ABC. “I just felt overall disrespected and unheard by the administration. And I think as I’ve learned this year, the way to get justice in America is through the legal system.”

  
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The lawsuit alleges three claims against Harvard: a breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and conversion.

One of the attorneys representing Barkhordar, LeElle Slifer, told ABC News by forcing students off-campus and moving the semester online, Harvard breaches the contract signed by students who paid their tuition on the understanding they would receive in-person classes.

“That agreement wasn’t met. Classes went online halfway through, so that was a breach of that contract.” Slifer said.

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In March, after the pandemic closed Harvard and classes were moved online, Barkhodar was forced to move out of his on-campus dorm on short notice. He was also forced to fly across the country and move back with his parents in California, where disruptions were commonplace since five people were living in one house. 

The second claim of the lawsuit is that demanding the same tuition and fees under these bizarre circumstances unjustly enriches the school, as students are paying for something they are not getting, according to Warren Burns, another attorney who represents Barkhordar.



The last claim of the lawsuit is conversion. According to Slifer, Harvard converted the tuition money into a benefit for themselves, without actually giving the benefit to the students.

The Ivy League school is the latest university to be sued by its own student, who is a named plaintiff.

This past spring, as the novel coronavirus forced universities and colleges across the nation to move online, students moved back home and most tuition prices remained unchanged.

By the end of the semester, more than 50 universities and the school faced legal complaints from students demanding that tuition or fees be refunded. Columbia University in New York City, Drexel University in Philadelphia, Berkley Vanderbilt, Brown, and the University of Colorado are some of the many schools facing legal challenges.

While Harvard is just one of the many schools facing a lawsuit, Slifer told ABC that this lawsuit may set precedent for other schools.

“Harvard is Harvard,” Slifer said. “It sets the tone for a lot of things that happen in the educational system in America. And if Harvard were to take that step and do the right thing by students – these are, you know, 18 to 20 something-year-olds who are taking out loans in their name – and if the university was able to cut them a discount on their tuition, I have a feeling that many schools would follow suit.”

“Plaintiff and Class Members did not intend to attend an online educational institution, but instead enrolled in Defendant’s institution on an in-person basis,” the class action lawsuit complaint says, referring to Harvard University as the defendant. “The online learning option Defendant offers is subpar in practically every aspect. The remote learning option is in no way the equivalent of the in-person education putative Class Members were promised when they committed to attend Harvard.”

In a statement on its website, the school said: “As the situation continues to change rapidly, our top priority remains the health, safety, and well-being of our community, on and off-campus.” 

Harvard Law dean John F. Manning informed the students in a June 3 email, that the school will switch to remote learning for the 2020 fall semester, in response to the current public health concerns and uncertainty about the availability of COVID-19 testing on campus.

The announcement was widely scrutinized by students who say online courses will affect their legal education and additionally disadvantage students facing disruptive living situations. 

Barkhordar is just one of the many Harvard Law students who are frustrated with the school’s decision to move the fall semester online. A group of HLS students drafted a petition last week signed by more than 400 students, calling for change to the school’s proposed policies and demanded an alternative model.

“This is one of the oldest, most prestigious law schools in the world,” Barkhordar said. “And that they’re hanging their students out to dry — and that they’re suggesting we rent office space with our own money — is frankly ridiculous. And I’m glad the justice system gives me an opportunity to stand against it.”



 

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