By Grace Ferguson
On Wednesday, BU announced that it has prevented faculty from deleting recordings of Zoom classes. The university cited a legal duty to preserve them as evidence in several ongoing class-action lawsuits that students filed for spring tuition refunds.
Wednesday’s news came in an email to BU faculty from the university provost. The email said there’s a chance that claims for the fall semester could be added to the lawsuits, “particularly if the University is forced to transition again to fully remote instruction.”
The university does not yet know if it will have to produce any of these recordings in court. For now, BU is only preserving them, since course materials are relevant to the litigation.
The announcement was a reminder that these lawsuits still aren’t over, even though months have passed since they started.
In the weeks after BU shut down its campus in March, five students each filed their own class-action lawsuits demanding refunds of spring tuition and fees.
BU responded by asking the court to dismiss all five cases. Its motion was denied after each of the students filed amended complaints, requiring BU to file another response to the new complaints this week, which the university hasn’t done.
On Monday, the five students filed a joint motion to consolidate all their cases into one. At the same time, they filed one consolidated complaint that would give BU until October 2 to respond. The court has not yet granted or denied the motion.
In the consolidated complaint, the five students say they paid BU for an in-person experience, but after classes went online, they no longer got one. The students consider that an illegal breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
The student lawsuits also allege that BU didn’t use student fees for what they were originally intended for—namely, in-person services. The students say that amounts to illegal conversion.
In its response to the original complaints, BU said these lawsuits are essentially suing for educational malpractice, litigation that isn’t legal in Massachusetts. The university cited precedents in which courts ruled that universities can’t be sued for what they teach or how they teach it. BU says their decision to teach online falls under these precedents.
The university said there was never a contractual promise for in-person instruction. It also emphasized that students were still able to earn credits toward their degrees.
The university has until Friday to respond to most of the amended complaints if the court does not grant the students’ motion to consolidate.