‘Keeping their tuition does nothing’: What Northeastern students say about the school’s decision to suspend 11 students

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An interior view from the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering complex at Northeastern University. David L Ryan/Globe Staff

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Northeastern’s decision to suspend 11 freshmen while not refunding their tuition for the fall semester has sent shockwaves through the university’s community as schools across the country grapple with resuming classes this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On campus, most students agreed that dismissing the first-year students was an appropriate action, but it was not right to keep their tuition.

The university’s decision is currently being appealed by the students, according to a university spokesperson, so there is more to come on this story.

In the meantime, here’s what nine current Northeastern students have to say about the situation.

Somya Prabhakar, second-year computer science and business major:


“There’s a lot of nuance here because the university was irresponsible to bring back students, but the students at the same time made a terrible decision that even children should be able to understand. Suspended students generally don’t get refunds, but these students hadn’t even gone to the first day of class. I don’t think it’s fair for Northeastern to take such a large sum of money given their obvious greed in bringing students back at all. They were right to suspend the students, but they would have been more justified taking housing costs and refunding tuition.” 

Khari Harper, fourth-year music industry major:


Kicking them off campus solves the problem of them breaking COVID rules and posing a risk, but keeping their tuition does nothing to mitigate any danger. Any sensible person would realize, given the circumstances and what we’ve seen so far, if they allowed students back on campus they would gather and violate safety rules in some way. Northeastern didn’t need nor should it have opened up the campus, so I don’t think that the young students who are given a certain expectation of what college life is supposed to be should be penalized so heavily.” 

Norman Zeng, fourth-year graphic and information design major:


“I’m fine with [Northeastern] keeping room and board, however considering the rise of student debt in America, the economic fallout of COVID, and the fact that financial punishment disproportionately affects lower income students, I think any financial burden that high should not be on the table. A quick suspension serves as a harsh reminder by itself. No need to go further.” 

Rayna Levinson, fifth-year computer science and business administration major:

“Northeastern was definitely right to suspend the students who gathered closely indoors without masks. If we even have a shot at staying open there needs to be a strong deterrent against anything with a high risk of transmitting the virus. As for the tuition, Northeastern probably shouldn’t have kept all of it… Some people liken it to ‘stealing’ tuition money, which isn’t fair, because it was part of the agreement. However, [it] was a harsh agreement in the first place. What I think Northeastern should have done is decide on a formula for how much of a refund a student would get based on when they are suspended and the severity of the infraction.” 


Micaela Trzcinski, third-year computer science and mathematics major:

“I think that Northeastern was right to suspend the 11 freshmen… However, I don’t think Northeastern should keep the tuition money. In essence, the students are getting charged for a service they will not receive. Northeastern should donate the money to students or residents of Boston struggling because of COVID. They should do something positive for the community with that money… It would be a powerful statement. By keeping the money, no one but Northeastern benefits.” 

Sky Bauer-Rowe, third-year psychology major:

“I do think the school was correct in suspending the students. With any lesser punishment, I doubt that they would have learned their lesson. They were offered spring admission as well, so it’s not that they can’t come back from this. The embarrassment and shame is punishment enough, and I do not believe the school is in the right for taking over $33K. It’s not just [tuition], either. It’s the housing, meal plans, textbooks, and class software they might have bought, student fees, etc. That all adds up. It’s definitely more than $33K. This part of the punishment doesn’t even fall on the students, but their parents, who don’t deserve this during a pandemic.” 


Aleksandra Burger-Roy, fifth-year chemical engineering major:

“I find that suspension is absolutely a reasonable consequence for this particular transgression because not only is it a hefty punishment but it also keeps on-campus students safe by physically removing irresponsible students from campus. The university is completely in the wrong to not refund the tuition…[T]his suspension will eventually result in the students and/or their parents being saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of additional debt. It makes no sense to charge people for a service they didn’t receive.” 

Nathan Wu, second-year finance major:

“NU was right to suspend the 11 freshmen for the semester for violating the gathering rules because [they] were made very clear by the university… As for Northeastern keeping the tuition, I personally believe they were correct. Although it is a financial burden to see $36.5K go down the drain, it is the responsibility of the student to be accountable for their actions. College is a time to be an independent person, to take care of yourself and make your own decisions. I would want to see NU use [the money] to provide the necessary healthcare for the Boston students that had direct contact with any of the 11 freshmen.” 


Zachary Galeaz, fourth-year computer science major:

“Though I support the suspension of the 11 students, I don’t think it’s right for Northeastern to keep their tuition payments… Northeastern was more interested in making an example of the 11 students in question than taking more thorough, effective, and compassionate measures to save students from themselves, instead choosing to rule with fear… I would like to say that, for the most part, I’m extremely happy with how well Northeastern’s reopening plan was executed, and am blown away by our school’s testing capacity and efficiency. I just wish they’d handled this a bit more fairly rather than resorting to scare tactics to reduce unsafe gatherings.” 

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Related: Earlier this week, we asked readers about their opinions on the suspension of the 11 students. We received an overwhelming response from readers, community members, alumni, and parents of college students — over 6,000 of you weighed in.

You can still share your thoughts below.

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