Newsday's story "NCC president: $337G to leave" [News, July 31] focuses on the dollar figure of the separation agreement between Nassau Community College and president Donald P. Astrab.

The college's board of trustees acted with the goal of limiting the financial costs as much as possible. In the event of involuntary termination, Astrab would have already been entitled to 12 months' pay and health care coverage, plus accrued vacation and sick pay. Those obligations amount to more than 80 percent of the $337,000.

The agreement prevents Astrab from suing or disparaging the college. The board of trustees believes this was the most prudent way to protect the interests of the college and the taxpayers.

Geoffrey Prime, Garden City

Editor's note: The writer is the chairman of the college's board of trustees.

Scanning recent headlines, one might be excused for thinking the only issue was Astrab's cost-cutting measures ["Put students first at NCC," Editorial, July 31]. Nothing could be further from the truth.

At the beginning of Astrab's tenure, the faculty proposed several cost-cutting strategies, at least one of which would have been worth several million dollars, but he rejected each one. Yet when Astrab called on us to do more with less, we found ways, despite our misgivings, to answer his call.

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His response was to eliminate faculty, cut programs and course offerings, reduce student services, and increase class sizes while giving substantial raises to certain administrators. Sharing the pain was not part of Astrab's vocabulary.

The college's academic senate, a democratically elected body of full-time faculty, students and administrators, is the forum for striking a balance among the educational needs of our students, the difficult financial realities of their lives, and the college's own fiscal realities. Astrab chose to marginalize the academic senate, vetoing its carefully crafted decisions at the eleventh hour and imposing his own will by administrative fiat, thereby missing many chances to lessen the sting of cuts.

We defended this system of shared school governance as vigorously as we did -- with two votes of no confidence and a sustained campaign of protest before the college's board of trustees -- for a reason: It is the heart of why Nassau is the top-ranked community college in New York State and is among the top 100 community colleges in the nation.

The faculty has indeed outlasted Astrab, the "cost-cutter" whom the trustees were forced to pay a sweetheart $337,000 package. Under the leadership of Kenneth Saunders, we are poised just as we were three years ago -- to ensure that Nassau Community is a place where success starts and continues.

Kimberley Reiser, Garden City

Editor's note: The writer is a biology professor and chairwoman of the college's academic senate.

Columnist Joye Brown mentions "NCC's passion for combat" ["Peace at school won't come easily," News, July 31]. This is not a true picture of the historic relationship between faculty and administration. As a past president of the college Faculty Senate and the College Federation of Teachers, and as a faculty member for 47 years, I can state unequivocally that faculty input was always welcomed by past presidents, especially for the 27 years under Sean Fanelli.

Bernard Katz, Garden City

Editor's note: The writer is a psychology professor at the college.

As the article "NCC president leaving?" [News, July 29] points out, Nassau Community College is supposed to be funded in thirds: by the state, by the county and by tuition. Yet neither Nassau County nor New York State has ever, even when times were good, fully lived up to that funding obligation.

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If they did, even in these difficult times, the college would be in a much less precarious financial situation. That's where the real financial irresponsibility lies, not with the college itself.

Richard Newman, Garden City

Editor's note: The writer is the communications coordinator for the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers (NCCFT), which is the union representing NCC's full-time faculty.