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LIU Post faculty asks university leaders to scrap layoffs of more than 100 staffers  

The Brookville campus of LIU Post, which is

The Brookville campus of LIU Post, which is closed because of COVID-19, is shown on Tuesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

LIU Post's decision to lay off at least 100 support staffers last week will cause "financial hardship" to those left without income and health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic while damaging the reputation of the Brookville college, according to a letter written by members of the university's faculty.

The letter, sent Monday to Kimberly Kline, LIU's president and Eric Krasnoff, chairman of the board of trustees, calls for the layoffs to be rescinded and the wages of their former colleagues restored.

"The faculty believe that these layoffs harm both the affected workers and the private and public reputation of the institution itself," according to a copy of the letter obtained by Newsday. "Some will suffer from these layoffs, but all will be able to see and judge, including students from Long Island who, upon hearing this local news, may no longer consider attending LIU next fall. Laying off workers during a crisis debases the university, and metes such harm on the few, the very vulnerable, and generally the most financially insecure members of the LIU community."

Jeremy Buchman, chair of the LIU Faculty Council and an associate professor of political science, declined to comment on the letter, which was signed by 103 staffers.

LIU Post announced last week that it had "temporarily" laid off an undisclosed number of employees whose duties could not be performed remotely while the campus was closed to staff and students. The layoffs, a university statement said at the time, affected "a small percentage of its workforce for the next 30 days."

"Like many universities and businesses, we’ve faced a number of challenging decisions over the past several weeks as we work to navigate these unprecedented circumstances," LIU said in a statement Tuesday. "The university temporarily laid off nonessential employees whose job cannot be done remotely. This is not a decision we took lightly. We value our staff immensely and understand this is a difficult time."

University officials have refused to say how many employees were laid off, their titles or departments or if it was committed to bringing them back when the campus reopens. 

Sources told Newsday the layoffs affected in excess of 100 employees, including secretaries, grounds and maintenance workers, lab technicians and IT specialists.

Union officials representing some of these employees did not respond to requests for comments.

Multiple staffers laid off last week told Newsday that their functions could be performed remotely with university-issued laptops. One former employee said he had equal or better remote access than some of his colleagues who were not laid off.

Another veteran support staff employee said the university immediately cut off his health care benefits — instructing him to sign up for more expensive COBRA coverage — and prorated his final paycheck. 

"There are ways to do things and ways not to do them," said the employee, who declined to be identified, fearing retaliation by university leadership. "It could have been handled with more compassion but that's lacking with this administration."

The letter adds that it makes no difference if employees can provide remote support during the pandemic.

"Keeping the staff on payroll and providing them with health insurance during a public health crisis, instead of forcing them to choose between paying high COBRA rates out-of-pocket or facing a pandemic without any insurance, is simply the right thing to do and shows that we stand by the workers who provide so much for the institution," the letter states.

Faculty members said the pandemic provided an opportunity for the university to bring the campus community together for a common cause.

"LIU needs to use this crisis in a manner that is positive, not punitive; to rebuild morale, instead of piling financial hurt onto shock; to create a commitment to common goals, instead of a sense that some of our colleagues are disposable," the letter states. "The future of LIU is at risk."