Grad: I didn't get what I paid for during pandemic shutdown. Ohio State owes me.

Brooke Smith
Guest columnist
Ohio State University in Columbus in April 2020, when it was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Brooke Smith is the lead plaintiff in Smith vs. Ohio State University.

I have always wanted to be a teacher.

To pursue my dream, I applied and was accepted to Ohio State University, recognized as the premier teaching school in the Midwest.

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While Ohio State is more expensive than many other higher education options, I chose to attend because of its reputation for excellence and the hands-on experiences I knew I would gain with my peers and professors at one of the most resource-rich campuses in the country.

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Throughout most of my time at OSU, the investment in myself and my education was intellectually fulfilling and prepared me for life and a career after college. But then in the Spring semester of 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

I was a senior at the time, getting ready to graduate with a degree in early childhood education and visual impairment education.

Not only did the campus shut down, with all classes switching to a virtual format, but my in-class kindergarten teaching internship through OSU was also abruptly halted.

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I understand the need to take these steps and OSU tried to make the best out of an incredibly difficult situation. However, there is no question that the experience my classmates and I received during that semester was nowhere near what we expected based on the promises made by OSU when we enrolled – nor was it what we had paid for.

Brooke Smith

Fast forward more than two years, and students who were short changed have still received almost no refunds.

In fact, of the more than $15,000 I paid for that semester — to attend in-person classes, work at my internship, access libraries, computer labs, study rooms, and participate in extracurricular activities, among other hands-on experiences — I have received less than $50 back.

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That’s why I am the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit for myself and my classmates to recover some of what we paid for instruction, services and experiences we were directly or implicitly promised, but did not receive.

Our hope is that OSU and the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost will engage in an open and honest dialogue with us about our case. So far there’s been an unfortunate silence from these two power centers who have the ability to right an obvious wrong.

Sep 14, 2022; Columbus, OH, United States; Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, is running for reelection and faces state Rep. Jeff Crossman. Yost poses for a photo at The Columbus Dispatch studio.

I have to believe that Yost understands that in-person learning is not the same as virtual learning; and I know that OSU’s leadership understands this fact, as they’ve returned to robust campus life and world-class, in-person instruction as we’ve gotten past the worst of the pandemic.

I — like many young people — regrettably also understand and have had to contend with this reality. Virtual classes, with no ability to connect beyond the screen, simply didn’t provide the kind of rich, deep experience OSU promoted and promised.

Among other shortcomings forced by the pandemic, without the ability to teach as part of my OSU internship, I was not adequately prepared to be a teacher when I graduated.

Honestly, it’s something even my future kindergarten students will understand — you deserve to get what you pay for.

Brooke Smith is the lead plaintiff in Smith vs. Ohio State University.