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Mercy College accuses former dean, LIU of poaching students

For some athletes at LIU Post, the consolidation

For some athletes at LIU Post, the consolidation of programs with the Brooklyn campus may mean giving up their sport or commuting to play it. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Mercy College has filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the former dean of its business school and his current employer, Long Island University, alleging they unfairly lured prospective students.

Edward Weis, who served as dean of the School of Business for the private, nonprofit college in Westchester County from May 2012 through May 31, “improperly forwarded” confidential student information and directly or indirectly used that information to recruit students for LIU, according to the complaint filed Aug. 13.

In June, Weis, 47, of Chappaqua, began working as vice president of academic affairs for LIU Post in Brookville. Attorney Hayley B. Dryer, of Garden City-based Cullen and Dykman, who according to court documents is representing Weis, did not return a request for comment Monday.

“While this case lacks merit, we will address the facts through the courts, not in the media,” LIU spokesman Jon Schneider said. The private university's other main campus is in downtown Brooklyn.

Attorney Michael Best, LIU's legal counsel, said in an email that Weis would not give any additional comment.

Mercy College, which has its main campus in Dobbs Ferry, claims Weis breached his duty of loyalty, and that both he and LIU “knowingly and maliciously competed unfairly” by using confidential student information, according to the 15-page document filed in Westchester County.

Mary A. Smith, a principal in the White Plains office of Jackson Lewis representing Mercy College, referred comment to the institution. Spokeswoman Laura Plunkett said the college is “committed to working with all parties involved for a fair resolution” and would not comment further on the litigation.

Mercy College annually compiles a list of students with high grade-point averages and SAT scores, from which it invites candidates to attend its summer Leadership Academy. Those students then are generally offered admission to its Business Honors Program in the School of Business, the court papers say.

The college conducted an investigation and found that in April, Weis forwarded several emails to his personal email with confidential information relating to the program from 2017 and 2018, according to the complaint. One email, for example, contained the college’s 2018 Leadership Academy Spreadsheet, which includes names and contact information for prospective students to whom the college intends to offer admission and scholarships for the 2019-20 school year, according to the legal document. 

The college’s investigation found that on June 26, LIU “directly solicited two of the registered students” who were on Mercy's list of SAT high-scorers, offering more scholarship money to attend LIU, according to the court papers. The college says LIU would not have had access to the students’ contact information or scholarship details without disclosure of information by Weis.

According to the suit, Mercy College “goes to great lengths to protect its confidential information, trade secrets and student information,” implementing policies and passwords protecting access to computers and systems.

As of May 1, Mercy College had 42 accepted and registered freshmen for the Business Honors Program for the 2018-19 school year. By July 20, nine of those students — all of whom had personal information in at least one of the confidential spreadsheets, and four of whom were on the high-scoring SAT list and participated in the 2017 Leadership Academy — notified the college that they instead would attend LIU, according to the complaint.

The loss of one registered student to the college represents approximately $32,252 per year in tuition, registration, board and meal plan, not including scholarship dollars, according to the lawsuit.

Mercy College is suing for at least $700,000 in damages for the loss of the nine registered students, as it “expends tremendous resources to recruit these academically gifted high school students” to the honors program, according to the suit.

The college also is seeking all money paid to Weis during his alleged period of disloyalty as a “faithless servant,” as well as punitive damages and damages equal to its lost business opportunity, according to the document.

Mercy College also asks the court to restrain Weis from soliciting any students and to disclose all documents accessed or taken, the complaint says.

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