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Former LIU Post adjunct professor files age-discrimination complaint

Barry Persky, 76, and Irving Gerber, 87, in

Barry Persky, 76, and Irving Gerber, 87, in Gerber's East Meadow home on Jan. 8, 2014. Both men, along with one other, were terminated from their positions as Adjunct Full Professors in the College of Education at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. Gerber has files a complaint with the state alleging age discrimination in the terminations. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

A former adjunct professor at LIU Post has filed a complaint with the state alleging that age discrimination played a role in his termination and that of two colleagues.

The action comes at a time when the university's leadership continues to restructure faculty and staff on the Brookville campus since a new president was installed in summer 2013.

Irving Gerber, 87, a professor and student-teacher supervisor for 13 years, said the school's administration gave no warning to the three oldest professors in the College of Education, Information and Technology that they were being let go, or any explanation.

All three men say university administrators didn't tell them their employment was over until they arrived on campus in January 2014, before the start of the spring semester, and inquired about their student lists.

"I am really outraged by this," said Gerber, of East Meadow. "I always did more than what was required of me. I wasn't one of those people who was just sitting on my hands. I've never had a poor review and I was recognized several times for my achievement, as were the other professors."

University officials said they could not comment specifically on Gerber's case, citing a policy against discussing personnel matters.

"It is an unfounded allegation that we would make any personnel decision based on age or any other discriminatory factor," said Jackie Nealon, vice president and chief of staff to president Kimberly R. Cline.

Gerber has been fighting for months to get his job back. In November, he filed an unlawful discrimination complaint with the state Division of Human Rights. Earlier last year, he filed a grievance with the faculty union that represents adjuncts; the process, which included a hearing, did not result in him regaining his job.

Fellow former adjunct professors Barry Persky, 76, of East Meadow, and Norman Goodman, 72, of Jericho, wrote letters to the state in support of Gerber's filing. The termination caused Persky, who had taught at the college for 25 years and was awaiting the dean's approval for a promotion, to decide to retire.

"At first, I didn't know what it was. I thought they had laid off a number of people," Persky said. "But then I came to find out that we were the only ones in the department, so I realized what they were doing."

Goodman could not be reached for comment.

Manny Kottaram, spokesman for the state Division of Human Rights, said the agency does not comment on pending cases.

Geoffrey Lasky, chief steward for the Communications Workers of America Local 1101, which represents nearly 500 adjunct professors at LIU Post, acknowledged the situation, but said Thursday he could not comment.

Cline has pledged to reshape the 20,000-student university, which has its main campuses in Brookville and Brooklyn, as well as a pharmacy school and regional sites in Brentwood, Riverhead and Westchester County.

LIU, like many tuition-dependent, private universities, has experienced fiscal and enrollment challenges in recent years. Teacher training programs have been hit particularly hard as the local market for those graduates remains tight.

Nealon declined to say how many staff and faculty positions have been eliminated or reassigned since Cline took the helm. Several positions, she said, "are no longer relevant in higher education today.""These are tough economic times and tough times for any university. We are a private university that has to demonstrate value," she added.

The university has 587 full-time faculty members, including 30 faculty members added in the current academic year, Nealon said.

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