Judge dismisses tuition refund case from last spring

By Rebecca Johnson, News Editor

A federal judge dismissed a case from last spring where students were seeking tuition refunds after classes shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a ruling issued last Tuesday, the judge cited the “unforeseen circumstances” of the pandemic and said Pitt was following COVID-19 restrictions from the state.

In the case, six plaintiffs wanted prorated refunds for tuition and others fees starting on March 16 when Pitt shut down. Claire Hickey and Akira Kirkpatrick, former students in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, originally filed the civil suit last May in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Pitt submitted a document to the court last month asking for dismissal — pointing to a similar case at the University of Pennsylvania, which ruled in Penn’s failure.

U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV said in the ruling that although the situation is “unfortunate,” “not every unfortunate situation is actionable.” He said while the court is “sympathetic” to the students, Pitt couldn’t have anticipated the pandemic.

“When the governor of Pennsylvania declared a state of emergency, the University’s hands were tied as it was required to act in accordance with the measures put in place,” Stickman said.