I’ll try to keep the story short, but the university I attend has recently had a tense situation arise between a professor and a student. The professor clearly broke the University’s own rules on conduct and procedure for its staff. The student was uniquely targeted and harassed by the professor, as is clear from all available evidence.

MY chief concern is how the administration acted to remedy the issue. They issued a public email stating they would look into it, and that was it. Sent months ago, they haven’t offered anything else. The professor continues to work for the school. Even more scary, the student faces expulsion from the university because the small group of students that support the professor claim the defendant is a threat to their safety. They’ve also attempted “character assassination” on this student.

The administration hasn’t protected him/her whatsoever. Naturally, I want no part of a university that runs this way. I’ve been in contact with the administration and basically said if they don’t do anything, I want my tuition and fees back, and my records scrubbed from their system. If they fail to do so, I’m threatening a lawsuit.

I feel entitled to my money back because the faculty broke university rules, and the administration did nothing to enforce its own rules. Because of that, my future at the university is liable to the same harassment. Regardless, I’m most likely switching universities, and will absolutely go to court no matter what if the administration fails to act.`

What I’m curious about, is if this kind of case would hold up in court. Threatening a major university is nerve-wracking, but I feel an obligation to stand up for this student (who is undoubtedly innocent of any wrong doing, given the endless evidence).

Edit: The above was a poor attempt at asking what kind of rights a student has in a public university. And if a student has any rights at all, what is the university liable for if those rights are infringed upon by its own faculty?

  • 13
    "I feel entitled to my money back because the faculty broke university rules" Unless you have a contract that specifically enables you to recover your money for a staff violation, this will not fly, no matter what you "feel entitled" to. Especially if the grievance is not against you, but another student... And getting your record expunged? Very doubtful.
    – Ron Beyer
    Dec 6, 2019 at 2:17
  • 7
    @PaleBlueDot In general, you can't jump into someone else's dispute and seek compensation. How the university treats another student is generally between the university and that student. If you sue, it normally has to be over something that directly affects you, and "I don't like what you did to someone else" doesn't count.
    – cpast
    Dec 6, 2019 at 2:25
  • 1
    It is still not clear why (on what basis) you believe you are entitled to return of your tuition and fees, and what standing you think you have. Maybe Maybe for the "unused portion"- say you paid for the year and you want to leave after 1 semester, get half back- if you can show that the atmosphere has become unsafe for you or a place where you cannot get the education you paid for. It cannot just be in solidarity for someone else. Also "get your record scrubbed"- are you a first year, first semester student? If not, do you really want to lose all the credits you already have?
    – Damila
    Dec 6, 2019 at 16:04
  • 2
    Not a legal answer, but I think organizing [with, if one already exists] a movement demanding the professor be removed or resigned would be more effective than legal action or withdrawal in protest. Dec 6, 2019 at 20:55
  • 1
    @R.. Agreed. For what it’s worth, my intention of taking the administration to court was spurred by many students seeking the same thing. The group of students that support the professor are trying to take the innocent student to court because they feel unsafe with him at the school. As most of us have realized, and like the answer to this post states, none of us have any “standing”. Many groups are forming to do exactly as you suggest. The joys of modern academia. Dec 7, 2019 at 2:54

1 Answer 1


There is a grievance procedure whereby a student can file a complain against a professor. (The possibility that there is no procedure is negligible: I can find the document if you name the institution). They may have reviewed the situation and taken whatever action they plan to. The person complaining will receive notice of the outcome, but it is unlikely that the outcome will be made public. Supposing that you are just an interested bystander: your right is to withdraw from the university, write a letter of protest, or continue as usual. You have no special legal privileges in this situation, because you were not directly harmed. You cannot sue a person for making society less livable for you. I cannot sue the university because (as a professor at a presumably different institution) I am only ephemerally harmed by university administrations covering their legal interests rather than punishing the wicked. You have no standing (technical term) in a lawsuit.

Now suppose you were actually the aggrieved student and the wrong was a wrongful public accusation of plagiarism (defamation). The defamed student can sue the professor. This is true no matter what the result of the internal disciplinary process is – except that the university might cleverly get the student to agree to shut up in exchange for some desirable outcome.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .