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Northeastern lets suspension of 11 first-year students stand, but credits tuition

The Cabot Testing Center on the campus of Northeastern University.
The Cabot Testing Center on the campus of Northeastern University.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The 11 Northeastern University students who were dismissed earlier this month for violating the school’s coronavirus rules will be credited $27,760, most of their fall semester cost, partially reversing a controversial decision.

The students were notified by letter Thursday that their semester-long dismissals will stand. But the students no longer have to cover the entire $36,500 cost of their program. Northeastern will keep $8,740. The school had initially said it would not give the students any refund.

“The university recognizes that the incident at issue occurred prior to the beginning of the semester, before classes began, and the sanctions result in a loss of access to university resources and tuition,” the university said in a letter obtained by the Globe.

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The university had been under public pressure to refund the money, and some of the students' families had hired an attorney who called the punishment too severe and threatened legal action against the university.

“The University’s response is still not acceptable, although it is telling that they appear to be backtracking from their initial position about taking these families' money without an obligation to deliver any services whatsoever,” said Brett Joshpe, an attorney hired by two of the students' families.

The students were caught at the Westin Hotel, which is being used as a temporary dormitory this semester, early this month without masks and not social distancing.

They were part of a special one-semester program for freshmen that was prepaid and cost $36,500. The 11 students were part of N.U.in, a program that allows first-year students to study abroad during their first semester of college. The program was modified to take place in Boston this year because of the pandemic.

There were 818 students enrolled in the program this year, all staying in two-person rooms at the Westin, less than a mile from the Northeastern campus. Northeastern is one of a handful of universities that rented space in city hotels to put more space between students and decrease the likelihood of coronavirus outbreaks. University staff discovered the student gathering as they were making rounds in the hotel. There has been no indication that it led to any infections.

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According to the letter, a three-person appeals board determined that Northeastern’s sanctions were appropriate. The university’s administration determined that because the violations occurred before classes started, the tuition portion of the payment should be credited, according to the letter.

“The student conduct appeals board — consisting of two administrators and one student — unanimously upheld the original sanction, including the loss of tuition, room, and board. Nevertheless, the university retains discretion to modify the sanction,” said Renata Nyul, a spokeswoman for the university.

The 11 students will continue to have access to academic advising and mental health and other support services, Nyul said.


Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.