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LIU Post 'temporarily' lays off dozens of employees amid outbreak

LIU Post in Brookville has laid off dozens

LIU Post in Brookville has laid off dozens of employees amid the coronavirus outbreak, university officials and sources said. The campus is shown in August 2018. Credit: Howard Schnapp

LIU Post has "temporarily" laid off dozens of employees from its Brookville campus, including secretarial and grounds crew staffers whose duties could not be performed remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, university officials and campus sources said Tuesday.

The layoffs come days after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday issued an order directing employees of all nonessential businesses, including universities, to work remotely.

"After reviewing the job duties of employees who are required to work from home, the university concluded that the work performed by some of its employees is not amenable to working remotely," LIU Post told Newsday in a statement. "Accordingly, LIU has reluctantly decided to temporarily lay off a small percentage of its workforce for the next 30 days. The university has committed to making no further adjustments during this period."

University officials declined to say how many employees were laid off, their titles or departments or if the university was committed to bringing back all of the staffers once the campus reopens.

Long Island University staffers and union representatives contacted by Newsday declined to comment on the record about the layoffs, expressing concern about retaliation by university leadership.

But one tenured professor, who declined to be publicly identified, said secretaries, buildings maintenance and grounds crew personnel — who are among the lowest-paid employees at the private university — were among those laid off. 

Another source said the layoffs included at least 39 secretaries at the Brookville campus and another 48 at the Brooklyn campus.

A representative with the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents the university's secretarial staff, did not respond to requests for comment.

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Earlier this month, Long Island University's Nassau and Brooklyn campuses moved to online instruction for the rest of the spring semester.

In a March 22 letter to members of the LIU community, University Chief Administrative Officer Joseph Schaefer said administrative and academic offices would operate virtually while "limited" essential personnel would continue to work on campus to support remote learning, technology and to provide security and maintenance.

Cuomo's "executive order bars nonessential workers from coming to campus," Schaefer said.

Randy Burd, senior vice president for academic affairs at LIU Post, told the university faculty that the work restrictions would not affect their ability to teach online.

"Although we have made some temporary changes to how instructors interact with students, these changes were made with the safety of our students, faculty and staff in mind," Burd said in a March 23 letter to university faculty.  "During this time I have witnessed all of your hard work to ensure a seamless transition to an online learning environment."

LIU Post has struggled with its overall enrollment, as numbers dropped 22% — from 20,621 students in 2012 to 16,079 in 2017 — according to the data from the state Education Department.

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