As they reel from revenue losses connected to the pandemic, many colleges and universities are racking up other costs not likely to turn up in their glossy brochures or as line items on staggering tuition bills: untold millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements for allegedly violating the rights of students, professors, and applicants on free speech, admissions and other matters as the schools pursue social justice causes.
Harvard University’s legal costs fighting a continuing 2017 challenge to its racial admissions practices have surpassed $25 million, the cap of its primary insurer, and it is now suing a secondary legal insurer, the Zurich American Insurance Company, over its refusal to pick up the tab going forward.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had spent more than $16.8 million by the end of 2018, and its costs have only grown as it, like Harvard, continues defending admissions policies allegedly favoring blacks and Hispanics over whites and Asians.
Challenges to alleged free-speech violations, which have plagued universities for decades, continue to grow with a heightened grievance culture.
The University of California San Diego in 2019 paid nearly $1 million after a four-year court fight over its move to defund student media because of a school newspaper piece satirizing “safe spaces.”