Three notable lawsuits related to higher education are working their way through the court system:
- On July 8, a former employee sued the University of Southern California alleging that the school engaged in a pattern of hiding unlawful and unethical behavior. The anonymous plaintiff claims school officials removed him from several university investigations to “protect employees who had engaged in severe or pervasive misconduct.” Those employees include accused serial abuser Dr. George Tyndall, who remains the subject of the largest sex crimes investigation ever of a single perpetrator by the Los Angeles Police Department. The university already settled a $215 million class-action lawsuit in June 2019 that could eventually pay out claims to tens of thousands of women seen by Tyndall, a former campus gynecologist, over 2½ decades.
- A group of 22 states plus the District of Columbia sued Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education on July 15 over new rules governing loan forgiveness for students who claim their colleges defrauded them. The complaint alleges the current borrower defense policy “unreasonably favors the interests of predatory schools over students and would deny relief to borrowers who have been indisputably harmed by their schools.” DeVos said last year that many of the borrower applications contained claims so dubious that “your jaw would drop if you actually read” the reasoning.
- Also on July 15, Liberty University filed a $10 million lawsuit against The New York Times alleging three counts of defamation and one of civil trespass for the newspaper’s portrayal of the Christian university’s decision to keep students on campus this spring. Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. announced the suit on Twitter, stating “Today @LibertyU sued @nytimes because they came to our campus from actual virus hotspots and made up completely false claims about COVID-19 cases at Liberty.” The Lynchburg, Va., school finished the academic year without a single reported case of the virus on campus. —L.E.