Eleven first-year students who were suspended from Northeastern University for breaching COVID-19 rules will now be able to use their tuition money for the spring semester, in a reversal from the school's original position.
The school's newspaper, the Huntington News, and other local outlets reported that after an appeal of the initial punishment, a student conduct board made up of two administrators and one fellow student ruled that the students’ suspensions for the fall semester would stand.
The board “unanimously upheld the original sanction,” said Northeastern spokesperson Renata Nyul in a statement to the school's student-run publication.
However, the school did reverse one part of the students' punishment. The board decided the tuition money the students had paid for the fall semester will now be carried over to the following semester when the students could return. However, the expenses for room and board, charged at $8,740, would be retained by the school.
The students were found to be in breach of Northeastern’s strict COVID-19 guidelines, which prohibit gatherings. They were dismissed for the remainder of the fall semester and were initially told their $36,500 tuition was nonrefundable.
The Boston school had previously warned students ahead of the academic year that there would be strict penalties for breaking rules designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The students, who were not publicly named, will have access to various school support services, including academic advising and mental health support, during their suspension, Nyul told the newspaper.
Two of the students' families have retained the services of Manhattan attorney Brett Joshpe to challenge the school.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Joshpe described the university’s actions as “unacceptable” and said his clients would be considering how to proceed with this latest update.
“While it is telling that Northeastern is walking back its previously indefensible position that it can just keep these students' tuition money without ever delivering a service, the school's response remains unacceptable, and the manner in which it has handled this entire matter, reprehensible," Joshpe said. "We will evaluate the options going forward.”
Northeastern did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.