A federal judge could give final approval on Tuesday to a deal between lawyers representing Emerson College and its students in 2020 in which the school will pay $2.1 million for switching classes to online only after Gov. Baker declared a state of emergency in March, 2020.
Under the deal, all Emerson students enrolled for the spring semester in 2020 would be eligible to split roughly $1.34 million. The three law firms in Boston and New York who brought the suit in US District Court would split $750,000 for their work and $6,482.45 in "out of pocket" expenses.
In settling the case, Emerson says it did nothing wrong, but agreed to settle because going to trial would be even more expensive.
Ryan Porter, a Mission Viejo, CA resident, filed the class-action suit in October, 2020, five months after he graduated, claiming that instead of the "first-rate education and on-campus, in person educational experiences" he was promised, he got "a materially deficient and insufficient alternative" for the last couple of months of his final semester. His suit sought a refund of the pro-rated portion of his tuition, room and board and fees for the period during which the school taught students exclusively online.
In a filing calling for the complete dismissal of the suit, Emerson said it never promised Porter or anybody else an in-person education and that its professors and staff worked admirably in the face of a global pandemic to continue to give students a first-class education.
Thanks to Emerson’s diligent efforts, students were able to complete their coursework, earn academic credits, receive student services, and, in the case of seniors, obtain their degrees. Plaintiff Ryan Porter was one of those students. Plaintiff accepted the transition to remote instruction without complaint, graduated from Emerson in May 2020, was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, was placed on the Dean’s List, and had his name displayed in lights on the side of an 11-story building in Boston to celebrate his accomplishments. Five months later he sued his alma mater.
Porter's complaint (1.3M PDF).
Emerson's memorandum on dismissing the suit (300k PDF)
Proposed settlement (172k PDF).