Students petition for partial refund of tuition; over 3,000 signatures collected

Students+petition+for+partial+refund+of+tuition%3B+over+3%2C000+signatures+collected

James Pollard, Campus Editor

Over 3,300 students have signed a petition seeking a partial refund of tuition and full refund of room and board for the upcoming Spring Quarter.

The Change.org form has garnered over 1,000 shares and over 14,000 views, said Weinberg junior Hiranya Kamdar, the founder of the petition. On Thursday, the Associated Student Government Executive Board endorsed the petition, urging students to read, sign and share it in a Facebook post.

“Due to the COVID-19 crisis, students paying for the Northwestern experience will no longer have access to invaluable face-to-face interaction with faculty, resources necessary for specific programs, and access to facilities that enable learning,” the petition says.

On March 11, University President Morton Schapiro announced classes would be taught online for the first three weeks of the quarter, with University leaders reassessing the situation by April 17 and making a decision whether to continue remote instruction by April 27. The University also said students who live on campus should not return until further notice, establishing a form to evaluate requests from those seeking to return to on-campus housing.

The request to reduce fees, the petition says, would not only more accurately reflect the value of the education received this quarter, but “also assist in mitigating the financial stress” the situation poses for many students and families.

Unlike semester schools, where some students are seeking refunds for fees they’ve already paid, Northwestern is starting a new term, Kamdar said. He sees that as an opportunity to reduce those costs now, and avoid the “uphill battle” of seeking refunds for payments already made.

With the April 1 deadline for the payment of Spring Quarter’s bill approaching, Kamdar found it “prudent” to post it now, though the University has not made a final decision. If the University doesn’t follow through on some of the provisions outlined in the petition, Kamdar said the payment deadline should be extended to at least April 17, if not later.

“If Northwestern can anticipate that they’re going to go online, then it’s pretty unfair to have students pay for services such as room and board and full-price tuition when they’re likely not going to use it,” Kamdar said.

University leadership is evaluating this as well as many other implications of this pandemic, University spokesperson Bob Rowley said in an email to The Daily. The University will advise when a decision has been made, he added, though he did not specify when that might be.

The response has been “surreal,” Kamdar said, with many students offering help and feedback. The next step of the movement is arranging mass emails to Schapiro and Provost Jonathan Holloway. Some students wrote email templates for others to use, Kamdar said.

“I just posted some paragraphs on Change.org. That’s all I did,” Kamdar said. “The rest of the work has actually been done by all the students that are sharing the petition.”

After one student voiced concerns, Kamdar added a clause saying any refunds or reductions made should not adversely impact low-income students who already receive refunds or financial aid to cover the cost of off-campus housing.

Kamdar emphasized he appreciates efforts from Schapiro, Holloway and the administration to address the pandemic, and that the petition does not intend to demean those efforts.

“It’s just intended to make our voices heard and make sure that students who can’t afford certain things and aren’t receiving certain services are not adversely impacted financially as a result of a pandemic,” Kamdar said.

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Twitter: @pamesjollard

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